In our paper, Audit Committee Elections, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether and in what ways shareholder votes in the elections of directors who sit on the audit committee (AC) are associated with the effectiveness of the audit committee. Within the board, the audit committee is responsible for monitoring the financial reporting process. This process involves oversight over the external auditor, internal controls and overall quality of the financial reports. Aside from voting in director elections, shareholders can do very little to influence or signal their satisfaction to the AC. Yet, research examining director elections does not generally focus on the AC. In this study we aim to fill this void.
Posts Tagged ‘Audit committee’
Ernst & Young supports effective audit committees and believes that audit committee transparency can promote greater investor confidence in financial reporting. A number of companies currently disclose more information about their audit committees than is required under relevant rules. With this post, we seek to alert audit committees and other stakeholders to current disclosure practices, and also to proposals that have been made for additional disclosures, in order to facilitate consideration and discussion.
Going Beyond the Minimum
Audit Committee Transparency
In general, investor demand and regulatory changes are driving boards of directors of public companies to be more transparent about their activities.
More specifically, investor interest – and policy debate around the role of audit committees and auditor independence – are generating discussion about audit committee disclosures that go beyond the minimum requirements. For example:
As you know, over the past couple of years, together with the board members and staff of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, I have been working to enhance the reliability of the external audit function and its usefulness to U.S. capital markets.
I will start off with an overview of some of the more significant issues confronting the audit profession. And then I’d like to open a more interactive discussion.
I. Corporate Governance Has Evolved to Suit the Needs of Capital Markets.
I have known many of you for years. I have watched and admired how you have navigated the many changes we have seen in both the energy industry and corporate governance.
Many of us have gained significantly more experience than we expected in identifying, addressing and preventing future threats to corporate success, such as differences in cultural expectations and business practices around the world and at home. Enron had a profound effect on Houston.
As this morning’s discussion demonstrated, you recognize that your work is never done. There is no perfect governance regime for all time.
The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (Nasdaq) recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a proposed rule  requiring listed companies to establish and maintain an internal audit function.  The SEC is soliciting comments on the proposed rule through March 29, 2013. 
Under the proposed rule, the internal audit function would be required to provide management and the audit committee with ongoing assessments of the company’s risk management processes and system of internal control. In addition, new Rule 5645 would require the audit committee to:
- meet periodically with the company’s internal auditors (or other personnel responsible for this function); and
- discuss with the outside auditors the responsibilities, budget, and staffing of the company’s internal audit function.
Companies would be permitted to outsource their internal audit function to a third-party service provider other than their independent auditor. For companies that choose to outsource this function, Nasdaq has stated that the company’s audit committee maintains sole responsibility to oversee the internal audit function and may not allocate or delegate this responsibility to another board committee.
According to Nasdaq, the proposed rule is designed to:
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.
Every public company must decide whether and to what extent to give the market guidance about future operating results. Questions from the buy side will begin at the IPO road show and will likely continue on every quarterly earnings call and at investor meetings and conferences between earnings calls. The decision whether to give guidance and how much guidance to give is an intensely individual one. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in this area. The only universal truths are (1) a public company should have a policy on guidance and (2) the policy should be the subject of careful thought.
The purpose of this post is to provide an updated discussion of the issues that CEOs, CFOs and audit committee members should consider before formulating a guidance policy.
This is a special year in many respects. We have our own concerns at home. But those of us who find our work on financial terrain have our sights trained east, toward Europe, and west, toward China, more than in past years.
In the broader population, there is new apprehension for effects we don’t know but must nevertheless judge. Will European states muster a defense to the behavioral contagion of financial panic? Will they find a way to use their inter-dependence to make Europe financially stronger? Or will they find that too many divergent interests must agree to save the European experiment? How will the U.S. be affected?
Looking toward China, many say that that nation’s economic growth cannot continue without structural changes. Can China instill its new, investing middle-class with confidence that financial markets will provide for its future? From our larger companies to our smaller entrepreneurs, we are doing business in China. Can we have confidence that China isn’t the latest iteration of — pick your era — the Tulip Scandal, the silver-mine frauds of the Old West, the S&L bust? And how should we deal with these risks in a global economy?
These are questions that require that admirable quality we often call vision. When we speak of vision, we speak of visionaries. That is, people who have stepped out from the crowd and revealed something that the rest of us could not see. There are false visionaries, who inspire us to act based on what we or they wish might be. But the true ones give us honesty, and invaluable leadership.
It is generally accepted that the full board has overall responsibility for risk oversight, mirroring the board’s responsibility for overseeing strategy. In deciding how to organize itself to oversee risk and risk management, the question arises as to whether the board should establish a separate risk committee. This article explores that question and provides examples to clarify the role and responsibility of a separate risk committee in situations where the board decides to establish one.
Through the risk oversight process, the board of directors obtains an understanding of the critical risks inherent in the corporate strategy, accesses useful information from internal and external sources about the critical assumptions underlying that strategy, remains alert to organizational dysfunctional behavior that can lead to excessive risk taking, and provides input to executive management regarding critical risk issues on a timely basis. How the board views risk oversight as a process should dictate how it chooses to organize itself for purposes of executing that process. The risk oversight process enables the board and management to develop a mutual understanding regarding the risks the company faces over time as it executes its business model for creating enterprise value. In organizing itself for risk oversight, what are some of the factors for boards to consider and when should boards establish a separate risk committee?
As an advisor to underwriters and issuers in initial public offerings, we surveyed the corporate governance practices of recent U.S. IPOs to identify current market trends. We focused on the top 50 IPOs of U.S. companies from January 1, 2009 through August 31, 2011 in terms of deal size of the IPO. [*] The deal size of the examined IPOs ranged from $132.0 million to $18.14 billion.
In doing our research, we compared our findings in this survey to those in our 2009 survey. We found that generally, despite the growing pressure for certain corporate governance provisions in seasoned issuers, the corporate governance practices at the IPO companies that we surveyed in 2011 remained in many ways unchanged from those in our 2009 survey. In both surveys, there were approximately similar results for the existence of classified boards, voting standards in uncontested board elections and the percentage of audit committee independence at the time of the IPO. Indeed, we found many fewer companies separating the role of CEO and Chairman of the board in our 2011 survey—34% as compared with 52% in the 2009 survey.
During the financial crisis, investors learned the hard way about financial liabilities of many institutions that were not previously disclosed. For example, many banks had large contingent liabilities to off balance sheet entities that they had sponsored. The extent of these liabilities surprised investors when the banks were forced in late 2007 and 2008 to take on their books these off balance sheet entities.
Outside directors on the audit committees of these banks were also surprised by the scope and size of these off balance sheet liabilities. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, these directors did not know what they did not know. Their blissful ignorance shows that the SOX reforms for audit committees have not been effective and that a different approach is needed.