Carolyn Payne left last week as the Audit Bureau of Circulation suspended all figures for the Birmingham titles all owned by publisher Trinity Mirror and started a full investigation headed by chief executive Simon Devitt.
Payne, who previously worked for Coventry Newspapers, was not the only departure. Assistant managing director (operations) Roy Mander who also left. No explanation for the pair's departure has been issued.
The irregularities concern inflated sales of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Evening Mail and Sunday Mercury by up to 17% during periods when Price Waterhouse, and subsequently PricewaterhouseCoopers, was the auditor.
The ABC relies heavily on an independent audit for its figures. Auditors are chosen by the company but have a duty of care to the Bureau.Trinity Mirror is believed to have considered legal action against PwC, which did both the financial and sales audits for the Birmingham newspapers.
Following the acquisition of Mirror Group by Trinity during the summer, Trinity's auditor Deloitte & Touche retained the audit contract at the expense of PwC which was employed as auditor by Mirror Group to undertake both financial and sales audits.
Trinity Mirror has been forced to provide around £20m for possible claims by advertisers who feel disadvantaged by the overstated circulation.
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