This is the text of my speech for the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics Conference last Friday. The theme of this year conference was “The Institutional Foundation of Capitalism”. Our special session was entitled ‘The New Financial Architecture after Financial Crisis’.
Archive for the ‘The Case Against The Auditors’ Category
A new KPMG tax shelter era document surfaced, in original format, that had not yet been cited or quoted from in any media reports. The document tells us that late in the negotiations, June 27, 2005 the DOJ still would not agree to all of KPMG’s terms, including promising not to criminally charge the firm. But the decision to make sure the firm did not “go under” had already been made. KPMG and its Skadden attorneys only had to make sure the DOJ didn’t, in a misguided show of sheer aggressiveness, cause another Arthur Andersen.
Should audit and auditor failure be solely defined by identified material misstatements that result in restatements, and internal control failures? I don’t think so but Jay Hanson, PCAOB Board member, said so recently.
PwC is scheduled to go to trial for malpractice related to the bankruptcy of SemGroup in August, almost six years later. The SemGroup Litigation Trust, pursuing claims on behalf of the company and its creditors, alleges PwC did a terrible audit. But it’s worse than just lousy auditing, especially if a trial exposes the truth of PwC’s disingenuous defenses.
Imagine my surprise when Ben Horowitz, one half of the venture capital team of Andreessen Horowitz, wrote a blog post about dodging a stock option backdating jail term that also implicates PwC.
Now that the Securities and Exchange Commission has crossed KPMG’s independence violations off its to-do list, the agency can move on to the rest of the ones I’ve already identified for them. How about PwC and its business relationships and myriad services provided to audit client Thomson Reuters?
SEC Administrative Judge Cameron Elliot issued a blistering decision last week in a long-running dispute over regulator access to auditor work papers in fraud investigations. The judge banned the Chinese Big Four firms from auditing US issuers for six months and lambasted them for voluntarily putting their firms “between a rock and a hard place.” The decision is not yet final but the enormous impact is already being felt worldwide.
How do the audit firms keep winning the war while losing battles left and right? They use the law and the courts to delay, deter and distract from transparency by settling, and sealing what they can, before the public can find out what silly arguments they often make in their defense.
We now know more about what the firms have been hiding. The global capital markets, not just current shareholders, need full disclosure of the engagement teams on all public issuers over time, and in a way that is easily accessible.
Are auditors too cozy with management and the Audit Committee? Unfortunately, that the way they all seem to like it. Investors and the capital markets suffer.