[Finance]

Shivaram Rajgopal Proposals to Reform the Statutory Audit Process in the U.S. The Arthur Andersen office at 180, The Strand, in Central London. (Photo by John Stillwell - PA ... [+] Images/PA Images via Getty Images) In March, the U.K. government proposed a set of reforms to restore the perceived loss of credibility of statutory audits. Meanwhile in the U.S., there is growing dissatisfaction that its statutory audit process is not working as well as it could—a feeling stemming from a combination of several factors. When students ask me who audits the auditors, I often tell them its the litigation process. After repeating that pat answer many times, my colleagues and I have decided to look into the evidence. We were somewhat surprised that the number of 10b(5) lawsuits against auditors has fallen into the single digits . Claims are often made that management is skilled at hiding fraud while auditors often assert that they aren’t responsible for actively looking for it. Perhaps the issuer-pays model where the company appoints and pays for the auditor’s time, as opposed to an investor, is to blame. Worries about whether auditors are skeptical enough are also cited. Moreover, there is always pressure on the audit firm to cut operating costs online and compete on price (audit fees) and not as much on audit quality.   After thinking about these issues for a while, I continue to be troubled by the following questions related to the credibility and relevance of statutory audits: ·      What signals do I have, as an outsider, to assess audit quality learn here of an accounting firm as the audit report is a classic pass/fail one-page report with virtually no other information? ·      Why do short sellers with public information such as Carson Block seem to discover frauds faster than auditors who have private information about the firm’s internal controls? The Digital CFO: Why Finance Is At The Center Of Technological Change ·      Even with documents being declassified in 10 years through the Official Secrets Act, we never seem to be able to inspect audit work papers or any documents to assess the quality of an auditor’s work. Why? ·      Why can’t audit firms put out a report customized to a specific company like S&P or Moody’s would with their credit reports? To be sure, progress has been made. The recent expansion of the audit report by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to critical audit matters is one way to go beyond the “pass/fail” statement towards a slightly more customized audit report. The PCAOB conducts regular inspections of audit firms and publishes data on deficiencies found in the inspected audits. However, it does not divulge information about the clients or companies whose audits were found to be deficient. I have five concrete proposals for regulators to consider: ·      Allow large or even activist shareholders to appoint the auditor: I have asked before why Blackrock , usually the largest and a vocal owner, cannot appoint the firm’s auditor. Perhaps we could even allow activist investors to appoint auditors in addition to asking for board seats. ·      The PCAOB could consider releasing the names of the clients, as opposed to audit firms, whose audits were found to be deficient. In order to ease implementation, clients’ names could be divulged after three years. ·      To give investors a peek (with confidentiality considerations built in) into the negotiations that took place, the PCAOB might want to consider setting up a secure electronic data room where the auditor leaves documentation of the tests performed to arrive at their conclusions and that information can be made available to investors, either on a subsidized basis or for free. That access can be made available to investors on a staggered basis, say after three years. ·      Consider changing the objective of the audit from one related to compliance with GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) to one where the auditor opines whether the financial statements “fairly” present the financial condition of the company, as done in the U.K. The change would be subtle. But in the long run, it would wean the system away from rule-based accounting and auditing standards and more towards a regime where the auditor is judged on how fairly the books represent the financial performance and position of the company.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shivaramrajgopal/2021/05/03/who-audits-the-auditors/

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[Training]

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