Auditors, The PCAOB Still Doesn’t Think Too Highly of the Job You’re Doing

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Chuck_Liddell_001.jpgThe PCAOB is considering telling auditors how to do their jobs issuing guidance on communication with audit committees and a new auditing standard on related parties, according to Compliance Week. Not to worry though, they’re going to ask the bigwigs on the Standing Advisory Group for their $0.02:

The PCAOB also plans to bounce some ideas off the advisory group for a new standard to govern how auditor should communicate with audit committees, in part to establish some new guidance regarding communication about management judgments and estimates. According to a briefing paper provided to SAG members, PCAOB is looking for ideas on how to get past boilerplate dialogue to achieve more effective, robust communications between auditors and audit committees.

Auditors? Boilerplate dialogue? Is the PCAOB questioning your ability to ask substantive questions? For shame. Obviously Peekatboobs will be able to develop much better, non-boilerplate questions than you and then you’ll be required to ask those questions of the audit committee. That’ll get the job done.
Likewise, auditors, you’ve simply dropped the ball on related parties since, “financial relationships with related parties have proved important in recent corporate scandals, and the board’s inspection and enforcement actions suggest some auditors aren’t skeptical enough when evaluating such relationships and transactions.”
The infinite wisdom of the PCAOB is clearly on display here. Auditors, it’s going to become necessary that your skepticism is going to reach a physical level or at least the threat of such. Your skepticism in words and on paper is simply not getting the job done.
You’ll have to get Chuck Liddell to beat some people down or simply laying heat out on the conference table during discussions to get your point across, otherwise, clients are going to just keep taking advantage of you.
This will be the plan until the next financial crisis of course when the PCAOB will assess that the questions and methods developed now turn out to be boilerplate and ineffective and it’ll be back to the drawing board again. Don’t get too comfortable.
PCAOB Considers Rules on Communication, Related Parties [Compliance Week]

(UPDATE) Is the PCAOB Going the Way of the Dodo?

Dodo_bird.jpgWho knows? Our separation-of-powers principles knowledge is pretty much zilch. However, the PCAOB is currently “doubly insulated from both political pressure and presidential oversight” which some – including the Plaintiff in the case, First Free Enterprise Fund – think is unconstitutional.
The case, First Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, will be argued during the new session of the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7th. Here’s the take of our sister site, ATL, last year when the possibility of the SCOTUS hearing the case first came up.
More, after the jump

We won’t rehash the whole immaculate conception of the PCAOB, as you’re all familiar with that story. First Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, however, could make things interesting: “This case has the potential to undo the SOX accounting and auditing reforms. As such, the result may impact not just the auditing profession, but also every public company as well as the users of financial statements of those companies.”
‘Undo SOX accounting and auditing reforms’? That sounds kinda serious. We won’t go so far as to suggest that you start forgetting everything that you’ve been trying to get your heads around for the past seven years, but there’s at least a possibility that the PCAOB could become extinct. That could be exciting, or it could make you completely f*cking miserable again.
New Court Term May Give Hints to Views on Regulating Business [NYT]
The Supreme Court Term – Significant Cases for Business [SEC Actions via JDA]
Supreme Court Obsessed With Business This Session [Law Review]

The PCAOB Wants You to Know That the New Accounting Standards Codification is Not Optional

The PCAOB would like all of you auditors to know that you better learn how to use this Codification thing and quit your bitching about how you don’t like it because they can hear you screeching about how much it sucks.
Nevermind that the P is already making your lives difficult with new rules and leaving lame ducks on their board.
Seriously. Get with the program.

PCAOB Appears to Be Taking After Big Brother

TOLD YOU.jpgThe SEC has been setting a bad example for everyone. Now the Commission’s sloth-like urgency to appoint a chief accountant seems to have led the PCAOB to think that finding new board members really isn’t a big deal.
Chuck Niemeier announced that he will be leaving his position as a board member of the P very soon, even though his term ended almost a year ago. The PCAOB’s board members are allowed to stay on the board after their terms have ended until a replacement is found.
We suppose that you could give the P credit for having the foresight to write this rule in, as it’s pretty obv that no one really wants this job. Doesn’t make much difference anyway, as it’s not really clear just what the hell they’re doing over there, except making auditors’ lives more difficult and possibly ignoring independence violations.
IFRS Critic to Leave Accounting Firm Regulator [CFO]

The Day the Audits Died

128 The Agony - Gethsemane.jpgI will refrain from expressing my opinions on the PCAOB and do my best to keep this neutral, I swear.
Accounting Onion pointed out in 2007 that “more than half of the PCAOB’s inspection resources (> $65 million) are protecting the public against the equivalent of a flea bite on the hindquarters of a bull (market),” meaning a bunch of overpaid auditors are inspecting 1% of public company revenue. 1%! What do we need them for?
More, after the jump

And it gets worse. The PCAOB and SEC have decided as of August 13, 2009 that auditors need a whole lot more on their plates including but not limited to increased disclosures for:
• An audit firm withdrawing an audit report
• Any time a firm’s name is used in an unauthorized manner by an issuer without the firm’s consent
• Any time new hires are brought into the firm with a history of disciplinary sanctions
• Anytime professional licenses are revoked, suspended, or subject to conditions or sanctions.
The last one is my personal favorite. Watch your Ps and Qs out there kids, they’re coming for you.
Let’s hope State Boards of Accountancy aren’t as broke as the states they belong to (this means you, California BoA, with your 3 furlough Fridays a month and ELEVEN WEEK WAITING TIME to process CPA exam applications!) otherwise there might be monetary incentive for state licensure authorities to put more bad accountants in the back of their monthly pub just so firms can avoid as many of these reports as possible.
As of October 12, 2009, firms will be required to make these reports to the PCAOB, who will then disseminate the information to the unwashed masses as it sees fit.
The same PCAOB of which Skeptical CPA speaks so highly on June 4, 2009:

Another PCAOB triumph. Does the PCAOB think say KPMG is unaware of problems at Citigroup? Or is the PCAOB aware that it is? How can anyone take the SEC and PCAOB seriously? Is Spokane more fraud plagued than Wall Street? Or just less well connected? Now if Goldman Sachs moved its offices to Spokane …

Check out the article for the backstory.
The SEC is having trouble seducing accountants to its team because of the competitiveness of PCAOB salaries. So what, let them get the scraps? You hear that, soon-to-be-grads? Why are you at Meet the Firms when you could be off getting wined and dined by the PCAOB? Sounds like fun, right?
The Maryland Association of CPAs’ CPA Success made the new reporting requirements sound much tamer, as if it were just a polite, albeit groundbreaking request from the PCAOB.
Perhaps it is a benign request. But this appears to be a PCAOB power grab to me, not to mention a costly one.
Just my $0.02. Do I have to report that to the PCAOB?

The PCAOB Doesn’t Care for the Flagrant Disregard of Their Rules

thumbs down col.gifHaving never been part of a PCAOB investigation, we’re not able to attest to the uncomfortable violated feeling one must have when you have a government foot soldier crapping all over your work.
That being said, if you can at least make an argument for your shoddy work, you’ve got something to throw at them. The same cannot be said when you have no discernible argument whatsoever that will allow you to look yourself in the mirror and call yourself an auditor.
Enter Moore & Associates and its President, Michael J. Moore:
Poor auditing, after the jump

After M&A registered with the Board in October 2004, Moore began auditing
the financial statements of public companies for the first time in more than ten years.
Over the next three years, M&A accepted nearly 300 public audit engagements, with
Moore serving as the auditor with final responsibility on each of them. Respondents
added new clients at a nearly exponential rate while the audit staff was comprised of
inexperienced staff members overseen by one professional. M&A staffed the audits
with assistants who had no accounting or auditing education, experience or training.
These unqualified audit assistants planned and executed the audits with little or no
supervision from Moore.

So, you’re back in the audit game after a ten years on the bench and you really don’t have the resources to pay anyone that has any accounting background. Not being one to shy away from adversity, you go out and find whatever warm bodies you come across at the Greyhound station. Eventually you get the call that the PCAOB is on to your little game and you’ve got to think that the jig is up.
Nah. Keep rolling with it:

Respondents also failed to cooperate with the Board’s investigation…Respondents created false work papers that did not accurately reflect the work performed on the relevant audits and produced those false work papers to the Board’s Division of Enforcement and Investigations. Moore also falsely testified that these work papers produced by Respondents were true and accurate audit work papers completed during the audit, when he knew they were not.

Nothing like going down in flames. For his incredibly diligent dishonesty and disregard for the PCAOB’s rules, Moore has been banned to the CPA darkness.

Moore & Associates, Chartered, and Michael J. Moore, CPA (8/27/2009)

PCAOB, We are Paying Attention

TOLD YOU.jpgPublic accounting could learn a thing or two from Wall Street. What if we treated the PCAOB like Goldman Sachs does the CFTC and the Treasury? Can you imagine PwC partners dispatched into high-profile regulatory positions doing the dirty work for them? We’d save millions in intern fees (oh wait) since no one would have to run a single shredder.
Case in point, the head of the CFTC (who used to work at Goldman) says, “I believe that position limits should be consistently applied and vigorously enforced. Position limits promote market integrity by guarding against concentrated positions.” And what does he do? Block GS competitors with federal limits while letting his friends run wild in commodities futures. We need one of those on our team!
More, after the jump

Oh wait a minute, we already have that! And it gets better, not only does his work history read “E&Y”, he used to be on Fed payroll as well. Double winner – this is the guy you want heading up the audit board? That’s laughable.

Mark W. Olson was recently appointed head of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board by Chris Cox, SEC Commissioner. This ends months of uncertainty about leadership at the PCAOB or Peekabo as it is popularly known. Mr. Olson was a Governor at the Federal Reserve Board.

In fact, the PCAOB chair’s wife probably hangs out with Goldman wives. A quick glance at his resume reveals the sorts of circles Mr Olson travels in; future partners of Big 4 firms might start setting their goals right about now if they’re trying to out-schmooze this guy.
So if you believe Wall Street and the auditors are that different, you’re wrong. No one is going to call Deloitte the vampire squid but it might be a good idea if we started looking at our own questionable regulatory ties. Perhaps accounting can learn a thing from Wall Street before it hits us like it has them?
And who is letting things go to hell?
Now that Olson has abandoned the PCAOB for bigger and better things, we can only hope his mustachioed replacement and those who come after continue the tradition of questionable business associations set forth by our friends at Goldman Sachs and of course the Big 4. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Do You See What Happens?

accountant.jpgThe PCAOB was kind enough to issue a couple of examples this week of what happens when you don’t take your role as auditor seriously.
We wouldn’t dream of putting them both in one post so we’ll give you one in the morning to ponder and save the second for later right about the time you’re ready to flip out, so hang in there.
We’ve also done you the courtesy of reading (sort of) both of the orders so that you can remain fully chargeable (not counting the time you take to read this post of course):
Thomas Linden was a partner in the Chicago office of Deloitte and lead engagement partner on Navistar Financial Corporation (NFC). At the 11th hour, prior to filing the fiscal year 2003 10-K, the engagement team realized that assets, revenues, and net profits were overstated by $19.7 million.
Check out the rest, after the jump

Having a typical over-confident management team, NFC had already taken the liberty of announcing the fourth quarter earnings prior to filing the 10-K.
Because Tom Linden was a Big 4 Partner and thus impervious to any challenge he encounterd, he took the following action (all our emphasis):

• Initiated an increase of approximately 50 percent in Deloitte’s planned tolerance for misstatements in NFC’s reported financial results
• Authored, with the assistance of a member of the NFC engagement team, an NFC auditwork paper that inaccurately characterized the reasons for and circumstances surrounding the increase
• Failed to evaluate adequately the risk that NIC’s financial statements were materially misstated due to error or fraud
• Otherwise failed to act with the requisite due professional care and professional skepticism

Okay, so the last two are boring but the first two kinda, sorta give us this impression of what happened:
Dude finds out the numbers are bunk, client isn’t cool with telling their analysts (who NFC told that they had a kick ass quarter) that said numbers are bunk, so Dude up and decides to ABBACADABRA make the tolerance for misstatement 50% higher than it was for the entire audit (read: that’s a lot).
Then, after probably putting the proverbial (or possibly literal) gun to head of the “member of the NFC engagement team”, they wrote a workpaper that supposedly explained why the tolerance was all of sudden 50% higher but the rationale was something to the effect of “because we said so”.
So for all that tomfoolery (snap!), Linden gets fined $75,000 and can’t be associated with a registered accounting firm for two years and which point he can petition to be to be reinstated. Yow-za. To better times, Tom.

PCAOB Reminds Us That They Have Their Own Oversight Board

overtheshoulder.jpgGod bless the PCAOB. Back in 2004, they created the Office of Internal Oversight and Performance Assurance (IOPA) just in case those smartass Peekaboo inspectors were getting a little too self-righteous all over your audit.
Apparently, the fact that the PCAOB has its own internal oversight board is supposed to make all of you auditors comfortable. That assumes you knew about it in the first place. We sure didn’t know this internal affairs-esque board-within-a-board existed.
Maybe realizing that the IOPA had virtually no identity among anyone, anywhere, the PCAOB did everyone the courtesy of updating its “About” section of its website today reminding us of the internal watchdog. So whether you’ve got a legitimate complaint or you’re just seeking sweet, sweet revenge on that know-it-all dick questioning your tickmarks and indexing method, now you can give the PCAOB a taste of their own medicine.
Internal Oversight [PCAOBUS.org]

Add Another Hoop to the Audit Process

signature.jpgIn a move that probably just adds one more annoying hoop to jump through for auditors, audit engagements will now go through quality review with adoption of AS No. 7, Engagement Quality Review (EQR).
According to the press release, “The EQR standard provides a framework for the engagement quality reviewer to objectively evaluate the significant judgments made and related conclusions reached by the engagement team in forming an overall conclusion about the engagement.”
We’re hoping the engagement quality reviewers will be given free range to document their “overall conclusions” as they wish. Some that we would suggest: “You call yourselves auditors?“, “I’m recommending that the PCAOB inspect this engagement” or “What in God’s holy name are you blathering about?“. It would be a shame for the firms to institute a check-the-box method that would compromise artistic integrity.
In other PCAOB news, the Board is asking for comments on its Concept Release “to consider the effects of a potential requirement for the engagement partner to sign the audit report.” We speculated last week that signatures in blood or dog excrement might be appropriate in many cases but if you’ve got other ideas, you’ve got 45 days to give them better suggestions.
Press Release [PCAOBUS.org]

PCAOB Names Acting Mustache Chair

goelzer.jpgThe PCAOB has announced Daniel Goelzer will be acting Chairman of the Board effective August 1. Goelzer brings an impressive resume with him, not to mention a sheriff-like mustache that will undoubtedly let the accounting firms know that he is not to be trifled with.

Audit Opinions May Soon Require Partners’ Names Signed in Blood

signature.jpgThe details are still being worked out but another idea being floated around is giving partners the option of signing some opinions in dog feces, when the opinion being signed is in fact, of equivalent value.
Press Release [PCAOB.org]

SEC Still Stonewalling, Considering Slowing Down the PCAOB Even More

The SEC gave Congress a little tease about what happened at the Commission re: totally missing the boat on this Madoff thing. But then again, not really.
Inspector General David Kotz made recommendations about ways that the Commission could improve its oversight over the financial industry because, obv, it had nothing to do with the fact that no one there had the background to detect classic Ponzi schemes.
Some recommendations that Kotz made included giving the PCAOB more oversight including jurisdiction over accounting firms that audit investment advisors and broker-dealers. That’s just what the PCAOB needs, more on its docket because it gets things done so quickly.
Kotz would also like to see an amendment to the Securities Act of 1940 that would require investment managers, including hedge funds, to place their securities with custodians that are registered with a national exchange. Kotz claims that this would prevent investment advisers from fraudulently using the proceeds received from new investors to pay old investors (a la Ponzi).
That’s all fine and dandy but Rep. Paul Kanjorski, of Pennsylvania has been asking for details on the Madoff ball dropping for the last two weeks and the Commission has been stalling. Kotz could only state that the Commission is “proceeding ‘in an expeditious manner.'”
Translation: We don’t have any idea how we missed the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Best we can expect, Kotz says, is that the report to be issued by the end of August. Which might be enough time to get Kanjorski involved in a sex scandal and maybe this will all just go away for the Commission.

S.E.C. Previews Its Madoff Report

PCAOB, We Need to Have a Talk

pcaob.gifPCAOB, we here at Going Concern want to help you get some respect. We really do.
We don’t think it’s fair that people think you’re slow at writing rules for auditors. Okay, maybe you could pick up the pace a little bit but we know that it takes a lot of work and patience to write those rules. But then we heard about this and we want to let you know that we aren’t angry, you’re just letting us down.

The U.S. audit watchdog voted on Thursday to defer its first inspection on 49 foreign auditors in areas such as the European Union, China and Switzerland for up to three years.

Like we said, we’re not mad. We’re disappointed.

US PCAOB delays 1st review of 49 foreign auditors

PCAOB: The Rodney Dangerfield of Bureaucracies

pcaob.gif It’s tough being part of a bureaucracy, especially if you’re doing something as glamarous as babysitting auditors. The CIA, FBI, NSA have got it easy. You get to catch bad guys, use guns, and Hollywood makes movies about you. Aside from the warrantless wiretaps and otherwise general big brotherishness, it’s cool.
The PCAOB doesn’t get that luxury. They get to poke around auditors’ work and then tell them how much they suck at it. Not so fun for anybody. They also get to write auditing standards. Take the watchdog aspect, multiply it times infinity, and that’s about the amount fun we’re talking about for writing rules on auditing.
But now people are saying they’re too slow in writing these I-already-want-to-kill-myself boring rules? Yep:

“Given how little they’ve accomplished in the standards-setting area, they don’t get a passing grade,” says Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant for the SEC.
Turner says he and a group of investor advocates wrote to the PCAOB in 2004, asking it to improve fraud standards. But the work remains undone, he says.
Bill Gradison, the board member whose term expires in October, calls the criticism fair. “We’ve been much slower than other standards writers,” he says.
By comparison, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, which sets international auditing standards, among other duties, finished revising its own standards in March. The process, which included 37 standards, took about five years

Man, now comparisons to the Europeans. They’re looking for some new blood at the PCAOB though, since Mark Olson is retiring as Chairman and another board member’s term is expiring.
But don’t you go calling them lazy! “the PCAOB is taken seriously by the auditing community and deserves credit for trying. ‘Anyone who says it isn’t is off the wall,'”
What a ringing endorsement.

COMPLIANCE WATCH: Oversight Board Sets Sluggish Pace