Maybe the problem here is not that the audits are not being performed correctly but that the PCAOB has no idea what it’s doing in the first place.
Continued, after the jump
Many accounting firms are doing a good job of following new standards for conducting risk-based audits of internal controls, but others are not applying the standards properly, according to a new report by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.
The PCAOB examined portions of approximately 250 audits of internal control over financial reporting by the eight largest domestic registered firms in 2007 and 2008. The report assesses the first year of implementation of the risk-based Auditing Standard No. 5.
Listen, internal control isn’t like sex education, you can’t just say “listen, kids, be careful out there lest you end up with a funny rash on your cash flows” and leave a jar of condoms on the desk hoping management uses them. How does the PCAOB hope to be taken seriously when it slashes the minnows to death and leaves the sharks patrolling the waters for oblivious swimmers?
Case in point, in late 2008, GM settled with shareholders to the tune of $277 million for “accounting irregularities” (gee, this sounds familiar), and presumably for shits and giggles, Deloitte tossed another $26 million in there since, you know, as auditors they should have caught said irregularities. Irregularities? More like blatant fraud. But GM trudged on and ended up costing the American taxpayer $23 billion, most of which we shouldn’t expect to see any time soon, if ever. Would Deloitte like to kick in a few billion for that, perhaps?
The PCAOB should have stormed Deloitte and shook the auditors like crying babies until they confessed their sins at the regulatory pulpit. Instead they are going after puny firms and levying increased fees against them in the name of compliance – compliance! Compliance with what? Isn’t it criminal for the PCAOB to turn the other cheek? Compliance?! I’m not sure where the PCAOB comes from but where I come from, we call that being in cahoots. In some courts, it might be considered accessory to the crime but who the hell am I to judge?
So while the PCAOB is busy deciding whether or not it’s appropriate to require an auditing partner to sign off on audits (thereby invalidating the entire purpose of an audit committee in the first place), the blatant criminal behavior continues and no one seems to be minding the store, not even the guy who refills the condom jar.