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Opposition to Proposed Changes to Lead Auditor Standards

By Stephen Barlas
February 1, 2018
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After the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) required auditors in 2017 to communicate “critical audit matters” to audit committees (starting for large companies for fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019), it moved on to another controversial project. Standards for lead auditors who hire secondary auditors for a report on a particular company, whose operations may be far flung, either internationally or domestically, are changing.

 

Currently, two PCAOB standards—AS 1201, Supervision of the Audit Engagement, and AS 1205, Part of the Audit Performed by Other Independent Auditors—take different approaches to how the lead auditor supervises, or uses, the work of other auditors.

 

The PCAOB is in the process of making adjustments to its initial 2016 proposal, which raised objections from the business community. One of the controversial elements of that proposal, which covers numerous topics, addressed what the lead auditor must do to ensure that the secondary auditor(s) complied with PCAOB and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) rules.

 

Business groups have weighed in on the changes suggested by the PCAOB in September 2017, and they are unmoved by the modifications. The Center for Audit Quality wrote, “To require the lead auditor to take on the responsibility for assessing another firm’s processes for compliance with Regulatory Independence/Ethics Requirements would be difficult, if not impossible to execute due to practical challenges.”

 

Tom Quaadman, executive vice president at the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness (CCMC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, expressed his unhappiness with the rewrite, saying, “The CCMC continues to have concerns about whether the revisions now being considered by the PCAOB strike the right balance on the responsibilities of the lead auditor.”

Stephen Barlas has covered Washington, D.C., for trade and professional magazines since 1981 and since 1984 for Strategic Finance and its predecessor Management Accounting. You can reach him at sbarlas@verizon.net.
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