Category Archives: Role of the Audit Committee

Acting Chief Accountant Addresses Auditor Independence and Ethical Cultures in Audit Firms

On June 8, 2022, Acting Chief Accountant Paul Munter issued a Statement titled “The Critical Importance of the General Standard of Auditor Independence and an Ethical Culture for the Accounting Profession.”

The Statement:

  • Reviews the principles in the SEC’s auditor independence framework,
  • Summarizes OCA’s approach to independence questions,
  • Lists recurring issues in independence consultations, and
  • Discusses the importance of an ethical culture to accounting firms.

The auditor independence framework section begins with a review of the foundational principles in S-X Rule 2.01:

The Commission will not recognize an accountant as independent, with respect to an audit client, if the accountant is not, or a reasonable investor with knowledge of all relevant facts and circumstances would conclude that the accountant is not, capable of exercising objective and impartial judgment on all issues encompassed within the accountant’s engagement. In determining whether an accountant is independent, the Commission will consider all relevant circumstances, including all relationships between the accountant and the audit client, and not just those relating to reports filed with the Commission.

The discussion emphasizes that a simple “checklist compliance exercise” with the detailed requirements in Regulation S-X will not assure that an auditor is independent.  All “relevant circumstances” must be considered when assessing independence.

The discussion of OCA’s approach to independence questions briefly reviews the staff’s process and emphasizes several considerations, including:

  • Consultations should include all information relevant to an independence determination, and
  • Companies and their auditors should not place undue reliance on previous independence consultations as circumstances, legal or regulatory requirements may be different.

The discussion of recurring issues in independence consultations begins with a discussion of concerns by the OCA staff that they are observing “loosening attitudes” about the general independence standards.  It also focuses on the “checklist mentality,” non-audit services, including providing non-audit services to affiliates, and risks in alternative practice structures.

The concluding section about ethical culture issues begins with this statement:

“It is of paramount importance that public accounting firms foster a culture of ethical behavior with respect to all aspects of their professional responsibilities, including auditor independence.”

Included are discussions of how firms should be willing to forgo engagements that are “close-to-the-line” for independence and the importance of quality control systems.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Audit Committees and Financial Reporting 2017: Recent Developments and Current Issues

The role of the audit committee is constantly changing. Recent regulations from the SEC and guidance from the PCAOB impact how audit committees, their advisors and those who prepare public company disclosures function. If you are a member of an audit committee, advise audit committees, or are responsible for corporate reporting on financial reporting and controls, you need to have the latest information and stay on top of current updates that occurred over the past year including SEC and PCAOB developments. Register today for PLI’s June 12th live program and webcast, Audit Committees and Financial Reporting being held in New York City.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Audit_Committees_and_Financial_Reporting/_/N-4kZ1z10o1a?fromsearch=false&ID=306520

Audit Committee Evolution – Some Next Steps

Over the last two months we have done a series of posts about the evolution of the role of the audit committee and related disclosures:

Part One – Overview and Some History seciblog.pli.edu/?p=447
Part Two – Independence Oversight seciblog.pli.edu/?p=450
Part Three – Audit Fee Disclosures –A Few Common Problem Areas in This Independence Disclosure  seciblog.pli.edu/?p=456
Part Four – The SEC’s Concept Release seciblog.pli.edu/?p=462
Part Five – Voluntary Disclosures in the News   seciblog.pli.edu/?p=486

 
In this last post in the series we discuss two resources for audit committees:

  1. The PCAOB’s outreach to audit committees, and
  2. Our PLI programs for audit committee members

 

PCAOB Outreach to Audit Committees

Recognizing the importance of audit committee oversight of the audit process, the PCAOB has included information for audit committees on their webpage to help audit committees in their oversight role. They have also begun a regular newsletter, “Audit Committee Dialogue”. The newsletter is on the same webpage, along with a number of other resources.
pcaobus.org/Information/Pages/AuditCommitteeMembers.aspx

 

PLI Programs for Audit Committee Members

And, lastly, here are some of our PLI programs that will help audit committee members and other directors build and maintain the knowledge and expertise to appropriately fulfill their responsibilities. Most of these programs are available via web archives, webcast and live attendance. You can learn more about all our programs at www.pli.edu.

Audit Committees and Financial Reporting 2016: Recent Developments and Current Issues
www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Audit_Committees_and_Financial_Reporting/_/N-4kZ1z11i36?fromsearch=false&ID=259781

Audit Committees and Financial Reporting 2015: Recent Developments and Current Issues www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Audit_Committees_and_Financial_Reporting/_/N-4nZ1z129aq?ID=221250

Corporate Governance — A Master Class 2016

www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Corporate_Governance_A_Master_Class_2016/_/N-4kZ1z11ij4?fromsearch=false&ID=259397

 
Directors’ Institute on Corporate Governance (Thirteenth Annual)www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Directors_Institute_on_Corporate_Governance/_/N-4nZ1z129if?fromsearch=false&ID=221435

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!