Posts Tagged ‘Audits’

SEC Institutes Administrative Proceedings Against KPMG For Auditor Independence Violations

Posted by Lee A. Meyerson, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, on Saturday March 1, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Lee A. Meyerson is a Partner who heads the M&A Group and Financial Institutions Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum by Avrohom J. Kess, Karen Hsu Kelley, and Yafit Cohn.

On January 24, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an order instituting settled administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings against KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) for violating auditor independence rules in its relationships with affiliates of three of its SEC-registered audit clients. [1] At the crux of the SEC’s order are its findings that:

  • KPMG provided prohibited non-audit services to affiliates of its audit clients;
  • KPMG hired a former employee of an affiliate of one of KPMG’s audit clients and subsequently loaned him back to the affiliate to do the same work he had done as an employee of the affiliate;
  • Certain KPMG employees owned stock in KPMG’s audit clients or affiliates of its audit clients; and
  • KPMG repeatedly represented in its audit reports that it was “independent.”

KPMG settled the charges for approximately $8.2 million.

…continue reading: SEC Institutes Administrative Proceedings Against KPMG For Auditor Independence Violations

SEC Investigations and Enforcement Related to Financial Reporting and Accounting

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday February 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Randall J. Fons, partner and co-chair of the Securities Litigation, Enforcement, and White-Collar Defense Group and the global FCPA and Anti-Corruption Task Force at Morrison & Foerster LLP, and is based on a Morrison & Foerster publication by Mr. Fons.

“One of our goals is to see that the SEC’s enforcement program is—and is perceived to be—everywhere, pursuing all types of violations of our federal securities laws, big and small.”
— Mary Jo White, Chair of the SEC, October 9, 2013

“In the end, our view is that we will not know whether there has been an overall reduction in accounting fraud until we devote the resources to find out, which is what we are doing.”
— Andrew Ceresney, Co-Director of the SEC Division of Enforcement, September 19, 2013

“The SEC is ‘Bringin’ Sexy Back’ to Accounting Investigations”
New York Times, June 3, 2013

Much has changed since the collapse of Enron in 2001 and the ensuing avalanche of financial fraud cases brought by the SEC. For example, Sarbanes-Oxley raised auditing standards, imposed certification requirements on public company officers and required enhanced internal controls for public companies. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) was formed “to oversee the audits of public companies in order to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit
reports.” [1] In pursuit of that goal, the PCAOB has conducted hundreds of audit firm inspections, adopted numerous auditing standards and brought dozens of enforcement actions against auditors for violating PCAOB rules and auditing standards.

…continue reading: SEC Investigations and Enforcement Related to Financial Reporting and Accounting

Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2014

Posted by Alan L. Beller, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, on Saturday February 1, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Alan L. Beller is a partner focusing on complex securities, corporate governance and corporate matters at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum.

Over the past year, boards of directors continued to face increasing scrutiny from shareholders and regulators, and the consequences of failures became more serious in terms of regulatory enforcement, shareholder litigation and market reaction. We expect these trends to continue in 2014, and proactive board oversight and involvement will remain crucial in this challenging environment.

During 2013, activist investors publicly pressured all types of companies—large and small, high-flyers and laggards—to pursue strategies focused on short-term returns, even if inconsistent with directors’ preferred, sustainable long-term strategies. In addition, activists increasingly focused on governance issues, resulting in heightened shareholder scrutiny and attempts at participation in areas that historically have been management and board prerogatives. We expect increased activism in the coming year. We also expect boards to continue to have to grapple with oversight of complex issues related to executive compensation, shareholder litigation over significant transactions, risk management, tax strategies, proposed changes to audit rules, messaging to shareholders and the market, and board decision-making processes. And, as evidenced in recent headlines, in 2014 the issue of cybersecurity will demand the attention of many boards.

…continue reading: Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2014

The SEC’s Refocus on Accounting Irregularities

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday January 27, 2014 at 9:14 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul A. Ferrillo, counsel at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP specializing in complex securities and business litigation, and is based on an article by Mr. Ferrillo, Christopher Garcia, and Matthew Jacques of AlixPartners that first appeared in D&O Diary.

On July 2, 2013, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) announced two new initiatives aimed at preventing and detecting improper or fraudulent financial reporting. [1] We previously noted that one of these initiatives, a computer-based tool called the Accounting Quality Model (AQM, or “Robocop”), [2] is designed to enable real-time analytical review of financial reports filed with the SEC in order to help identify questionable accounting practices.

…continue reading: The SEC’s Refocus on Accounting Irregularities

The Effect of Audit Committee Expertise on Monitoring Financial Reporting

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday December 5, 2013 at 9:10 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Udi Hoitash, Ganesh Krishnamoorthy, and Arnold Wright, all of the Accounting Group at Northeastern University, and Jeffrey Cohen, Professor of Accounting at Boston College.

In our paper, The Effect of Audit Committee Industry Expertise on Monitoring the Financial Reporting Process, forthcoming in The Accounting Review, we examine the impact of audit committee (AC) industry expertise on the AC’s effectiveness in monitoring the financial reporting process. Despite the increased responsibilities, authority, independence, and financial expertise requirements placed on ACs by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), ACs may, nonetheless, lack sufficient industry expertise to understand and thus properly monitor complex industry specific accounting issues. For instance, expertise in the retail industry may assist ACs to ensure that companies take an adequate write-down of inventory when their products face potential obsolescence. Similarly, revenue recognition, a prominent area of accounting manipulation (Beasley et al. 2000, 2010), entails an evaluation and understanding of the earnings process, which is tied to a company’s business processes that are often industry specific.

…continue reading: The Effect of Audit Committee Expertise on Monitoring Financial Reporting

Achieving High Quality Audits to Promote Integrity and Investor Protection

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday November 16, 2013 at 9:06 am
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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 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.

…continue reading: Achieving High Quality Audits to Promote Integrity and Investor Protection

Do Fraudulent Firms Engage in Disclosure Herding?

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday November 15, 2013 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Gerard Hoberg of the Department of Finance at the University of Maryland and Craig Lewis of the Finance Area at Vanderbilt University.

In our paper, Do Fraudulent Firms Engage in Disclosure Herding?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we present two new hypotheses regarding the strategic qualitative disclosure choices of firms involved in potentially fraudulent activity. First, these firms have incentives to herd with industry peers in order to escape detection. Second, these firms have incentives to locally anti-herd with the same peers on specific aspects of disclosure consistent with achieving fraud-driven objectives. We use text-based analysis of firm disclosures and compare disclosures across firms involved in SEC enforcement actions to benchmarks based on industry, size and age, and also to each firm’s own disclosure before and after SEC alleged violations.

We hypothesize that firms involved in potentially fraudulent activity face tensions when providing qualitative disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency tasked with enforcing anti-fraud laws. Our focus is on the Management’s Discussion and Analysis section of the 10-K, which is where managers have a high level of discretion to describe the key issues facing their firms and to describe their performance in detail. A primary motive is to escape detection, and managers who assume that the SEC is less likely to scrutinize disclosures that resemble industry peers, or that such disclosure is less likely to raise red flags, have incentives to herd with industry peers. On the other hand, the same objectives that lead managers to commit fraud may also provide incentives to anti-herd in their disclosure from industry peers. However, these latter incentives are likely more localized, and anti-herding would be predicted only on disclosure dimensions that might help managers to achieve these objectives.

…continue reading: Do Fraudulent Firms Engage in Disclosure Herding?

PCAOB Proposes Significant Changes to Audit Standards

Posted by Amy L. Goodman, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, on Saturday August 24, 2013 at 9:40 am
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Editor’s Note: Amy Goodman is a partner and co-chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Ms. Goodman and Michael J. Scanlon.

Today, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) proposed for public comment two audit standards that, if adopted, would significantly change the audit report model, and dramatically expand the auditor’s responsibilities in reporting on management’s disclosures outside the financial statements. PCAOB Chairman Doty remarked that the proposed standards—running to almost 300 pages—mark a “watershed moment” for auditing in the United States.

The first proposal—The Auditor’s Report on an Audit of Financial Statements—moves well beyond the traditional audit report and would require the following additional statements:

…continue reading: PCAOB Proposes Significant Changes to Audit Standards

Reporting, Accounting, and Auditing in Financial Markets

Posted by Elisse Walter, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Thursday June 20, 2013 at 9:14 am
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Editor’s Note: Elisse B. Walter is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and was the Chairman of the SEC from December 2012 to April 2013. This post is based on Commissioner Walter’s recent remarks at the SEC and Financial Reporting Institute Conference, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Commissioner Walter and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

You may not hear this too often from people outside your profession, but I have always had a passion for accounting and auditing. I think this has its roots in the time I spent with my father, who was a CPA and the CFO of a publicly-held company; he helped me begin to understand just how important accounting is to business and the financial system. Of course, in my more than two decades with the SEC, which included close to a decade in the Division of Corporation Finance, I have developed a deeper and more complete understanding of the critical role accounting and auditing professionals play in our capital markets.

And today, I am pleased to see that we are working to adapt and expand that role to serve investors and other stakeholders even more effectively in the years ahead, by addressing critical issues at a moment of great change and important progress in the worlds of finance and accounting.

…continue reading: Reporting, Accounting, and Auditing in Financial Markets

Audit Committee Reporting to Shareholders

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday May 5, 2013 at 10:25 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Ernst & Young, and is based on an Ernst & Young study by Ruby Sharma and Allie M. Rutherford. The full publication, including table and footnotes, is available here.

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:

…continue reading: Audit Committee Reporting to Shareholders

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