SEC Chief Accountant Paul Munter was interviewed by WSJ‘s Mark Maurer the other day and his comments about firm culture are worth paying attention to if you’ve been tempted to speedrun internal exams lately.
Asked about his vocal stance on the importance of firm culture in maintaining professionalism — which includes independence — and if there are any particular cases that make firm culture a priority now, Munter referenced numerous “troubling things” on the cheating front that have happened in recent memory. Specifically:
- “[T]he issue with Deloitte in Canada backdating work papers“
- “[E]xam cheating that we sanctioned Ernst & Young in the US on“
- “[E]xam cheating in other jurisdictions as well: PwC Hong Kong and PwC China just last week with the PCAOB”
He was then asked if he considers the above settlements part of a trend to which he responded, “Someone might characterize each one of these as one-offs, but when you see a number of these happening in close proximity to one another, it’s troubling, and we thought it was an appropriate time to reinforce messaging about the importance of firm culture and that being a question not just with the audit practice, but for the entire firm, and network for that matter.”
Various other cheating issues have popped up around the globe in the last two years. Just a few:
More than 1,200 people at PwC Canada were involved in answer-sharing, either giving or receiving answers. As a result the firm was fined $750,000 by the PCAOB and $200,000 by the Canadian Public Accountability Board in early 2022.
KPMG UK and KPMG Colombia were busted by the PCAOB for answer-sharing (aka “cheating”) in December 2022.
KPMG Australia engaged in widespread answer-sharing from 2016 to 2020, the PCAOB hit them with a $450,000 fine in late 2021.
Everyone would be wise to keep the answer keys on the down-low for the foreseeable future. The SEC is watching.