Tag: Audit rotation


Achieving High Quality Audits to Promote Integrity and Investor Protection

The following post comes to us from Jeanette M. Franzel, board member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. This post is based on Ms. Franzel’s remarks at the NACD 2013 Board Leadership Conference, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Ms. Franzel and should not be attributed to the PCAOB as a whole or any other members or staff.

The following post comes to us from Jeanette M. Franzel, board member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. This post is based on Ms. Franzel’s remarks at the NACD 2013 Board Leadership Conference, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Ms. Franzel and should not be attributed to the PCAOB as a whole or any other members or staff.

I want to commend the NACD on its mission to “advance exemplary board leadership” with the compelling vision of aspiring to “a world where businesses are sustainable, profitable, and trusted; shareowners believe directors prioritize long-term objectives and add unique value to the company; [and] directors provide effective oversight of the corporation and strive to deliver exemplary board performance.”

Audit committees are instrumental in achieving this vision and maintaining public trust and investor protection through their oversight of corporate financial reporting and auditing. I would also like to recognize the important role and difficult jobs that each of you have as audit committee members in these oversight functions, as well as the many other areas that are being assigned to audit committees during a time of ever increasing business complexity and risk.

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Protecting Investors through Independent, High Quality Audits

Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jeanette M. Franzel, board member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. This post is based on Ms. Franzel’s remarks at the NACD 2012 Board Leadership Conference, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Ms. Franzel and should not be attributed to the PCAOB as a whole or any other members or staff.

I want to commend the NACD on its mission to “advance exemplary board leadership” and on the extensive training and resources devoted to leading practices for board members, including audit committees and other specialized board committees.

The principal elements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act — strengthening the role of audit committees, establishing the PCAOB to oversee auditors, and enhancing auditor independence and corporate accountability — aligned the interests of the PCAOB and audit committees. We both focus on auditor oversight to help ensure independent, high quality, and reliable audits to protect investors.

Recent questions about financial reporting and auditing, as well as related regulatory initiatives in the U.S. and around the world, highlight the benefits of and need for greater communications between regulators and audit committees.

Today, following the recent financial crisis, we find ourselves once again evaluating how best to protect investors through high quality financial reporting and reliable audits.

As you know, in pursuing our core mission of protecting investors through audit oversight, the Board has a number of initiatives to consider improvements in major areas of audit practice. I’d like to provide an update on several of the Board’s key initiatives that have a direct impact on audit committees, including our concept release on auditor independence and audit firm rotation, the new auditing standard on communications with audit committees, and our recent informational release that deals with communications with audit committees about PCAOB inspection results.

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Search for Auditors; Don’t Rotate

Editor’s Note: Robert Pozen is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. This post is based on an article by Mr. Pozen that originally appeared in Pensions & Investments.

In March, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board held hearings about whether to require public companies to change — or “rotate” — their external auditor periodically. Meanwhile, the European Union is proposing to require mandatory rotation every six or 12 years, and the lower house of the Dutch Parliament recently voted to require auditor rotation every eight years.

At the PCAOB hearings, various investor advocates and pension funds argued in favor of mandatory rotation. They found fault with the lengthy relationships between many auditors and the companies they audit — the auditors of almost 36% of all companies in the Russell 1000 have held that position for 21 years or more. According to the supporters of auditor rotation, this coziness creates a potential conflict of interest: an auditor’s desire to maintain a good relationship with its client could conflict with its duty to rigorously question the client’s financial statements.

Mandatory auditor rotation could reduce this conflict. Since auditors would know that their engagement would come to an end after a fixed period, they would have less incentive to curry favor with management. At the same time, mandatory rotation could encourage existing auditors to perform more thorough audits, because the firm would fear that a new auditor would expose any previous errors or omissions.

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Proposals for Auditor Independence and Audit Firm Rotation

Richard Breeden is the founder and chairman of Breeden Capital Management LLC and former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Mr. Breeden’s statement before the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s public meeting on firm independence and rotation, available here.

Richard Breeden is the founder and chairman of Breeden Capital Management LLC and former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Mr. Breeden’s statement before the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s public meeting on firm independence and rotation, available here.

It is an honor for me to participate in the Public Company Oversight Board’s public meeting to discuss proposals to enhance auditor independence, objectivity and professional skepticism, including the potential of imposing rules setting a maximum term limit for audit relationships. Sadly, many people in official Washington seem prepared to jettison the interests of investors without reason as would occur in the proposed JOBS legislation, which as currently written would unnecessarily savage important barriers against fraud and manipulation of markets. We should never be afraid to experiment with opportunities for reducing unnecessary regulatory costs, particularly for smaller companies. At the same time, we shouldn’t let anyone’s financial agenda be a pretext for allowing the unscrupulous a free rein to abuse savers and investors. In its current form this legislation has too many elements that are simply fantasies, such as that a company with $1 billion in revenue is a “small business”, when that is 10-20X too high a threshold.

When Jim Doty and I were at the SEC, the Commission created an entire set of registration statements and ’34 Act filings (eg, Form 10-KSB) geared for small companies to lower their costs in raising capital or being public companies. Companies could elect the simpler forms if they wished, although they might pay a market penalty for providing less information. We allowed things like requiring two years of audited financials rather than 3 years, and three years rather than five years of selected financial data. We simplified disclosure requirements for smaller firms with less than $25mm in revenue (about $41mm in today’s dollars), but nobody got a free pass for fraud and there was still transparency for investors in current results.

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