James Doty

The Trump Administration Will Drain the PCAOB Swamp

The election of Donald Trump is likely to transform the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). While the PCAOB is technically a non-partisan private regulator, it will not likely escape Trump’s commitment to drain the swamp. Jim Doty’s term as PCAOB chairman expired in October of 2015. The PCAOB chairman is nominated by the SEC […]

So Much for the PCAOB Inspecting Audit Firms in China

Welp. After years of negotiation and Chairman Jim Doty saying this past summer that the PCAOB was "very close" to reaching an agreement to inspect audit firms in China, this happened: Last month, a final agreement that would have allowed a U.S. regulator to examine the audits of Chinese companies listed on American stock exchanges […]

Just in Time for the Holidays: A PCAOB Auditor ID Proposal

Auditors are traditionally quiet participants in a company’s final annual report, signing their firm’s name on a form letter with a simple pass or fail grade. But a push to gain more insight into their process is growing globally, meeting demands for more disclosure from both regulators and investors. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the […]

Here’s What You Need to Know About the PCAOB’s Proposed Makeover to the Auditor’s Report

This morning the PCAOB held their open meeting to discuss "Proposed Auditing Standards Regarding the Auditor’s Report and the Auditor’s Responsibilities Regarding Other Information." PCAOB Chairman James Doty called it a "watershed moment for the auditing in the United States." And yeah, I suppose it is. I mean, the auditor's opinion hasn't changed in 70 […]

The PCAOB’s Disappointing Deal with Chinese Regulators

As is its wont, the PCAOB has made a major announcement in very close proximity to a major American holiday. I've been assured in the past that this bad timing is not intentional, but from a PR perspective, it has the tendency to soften the thunder of an important message. But whatever, we'll go with […]

The PCAOB Chairman Is Still Talking About Auditor Rotation

Generally speaking, there are two camps when it comes to the idea of auditor rotation or "term limits" as some like to call it.  There is the camp that sees it as an area worth exploring as part of a larger conversation around auditor independence and objectivity. And then there is the camp that does […]

Auditors Will Be Happy to Know That Term Limits Are Still on the Table

In a keynote speech at the AICPA's National Conference on SEC and PCAOB developments, Chairman Jim Doty passed on the opportunity to mention extremely recent developments and instead focused on things like the importance of independent auditing to "our economic success" and audit firm culture and the PCAOB's current initiatives. In fact, Mr. Doty doesn't mention […]

Mandatory Audit Firm Rotation: Regulatory Sit ‘n’ Spin

It's been about a year since the PCAOB crapped out Release No. 2011-006, "Concept Release on Auditor Independence and Audit Firm Rotation." Some people in the profession think the PCAOB has no real intention of mandating audit firm rotation; rather, these professional skeptics believe the PCAOB just brought it up to appear relevant. The PCAOB […]

Scoring Sarbanes-Oxley

As we pointed out in this morning's roundup, the New York Times' Room for Debate is discussing the success/failure of Sarbanes-Oxley. Sunday marks SarbOx's 10th birthday so naturally people in the accounting and compliance world are getting all nostalgic about it and yeah, okay, nostalgia can be fun sometimes. The Times had four contributors in […]

Congressional Members Seem to Have Their Orders Re: Auditor Rotation

You may remember that last Wednesday I put my grown-up clothes on and attended the PCAOB's open meeting on auditor rotation. It was a good discussion (relatively speaking) and I got chat with some pretty smart people. I can't work a room of old white men like Adrienne (few can), but Chairman James Doty seemed […]

PCAOB Has an Extra $20 Million to Spend on Field Trips to China

PCAOB Chairman James Doty shot the breeze with the SEC for awhile today, speaking about, among other things, how the Board would handle this boatload of Chinese filers who don't seem to know their asses from their elbows when it comes to accounting and their auditors who are similarly clueless. Doty assured the Commission that […]

The Big 4 and the Revolving Door

Last week the bane of Big 4 auditors existence, the PCAOB, broke their cherry on releasing Part II of an inspection report for a Big 4 firm. The honor went to Deloitte, who sufficiently blew off the Board’s recommendations for 12 months, which led to the release of Part II.

Bloomberg‘s Jonathan Weil, who usually sits back with popcorn while these things go down before chiming in, got to it today but with a twist that you probably weren’t expecting:


board members had recused themselves from participating in meetings or discussions this year concerning Deloitte, because of past or current ties to the firm, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The board members — Lewis Ferguson, Jay Hanson and the board’s chairman, James Doty — were appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in January. Doty had been a partner at the law firm Baker Botts LLP, where Deloitte is a client. Ferguson was a partner at the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which also represents Deloitte. Hanson, a former partner at the accounting firm McGladrey & Pullen LLP, has a daughter who works for Deloitte in its Phoenix office.

The board’s policy is to not disclose recusals, in spite of its mission to “further the public interest,” as if these are none of the public’s business. “Recusals are confidential,” Colleen Brennan, a board spokeswoman, said. Doty, Ferguson and Hanson declined to comment. A Deloitte spokesman, Jonathan Gandal, said: “The PCAOB itself does not comment on recusals, and as such it would be inappropriate for us to do so.”

It’s a pretty nice scoop by Jon and we’re all used to the silence from the PCAOB and Deloitte when someone gets the best of them but honestly, is anyone surprised? Does anyone care? The answer to the first question is “No.” The answer is the second question is “Maybe.”

With the exception of Mr. Hanson (family connection, we’ll give you that one), the recusals seem a little silly since neither Ferguson or Doty actually worked directly for Deloitte. Okay, so Baker Botts and Gibson Dunn have Deloitte has a client. Which Big Law firm doesn’t? It’d be pretty tough to find any DC lawyer who didn’t do some time at a firm that represented Deloitte. That goes for any Big 4 firm. They’ve all got deep pockets with lots of legal problems, of course they’re going to hire the best lawyers money can buy. Does that make guys like Ferguson and Doty unfit to make decisions with regard to that firm?

Well, for one year it does. Under the Board’s ethics code, Doty and Ferguson will be able to vote on matters involving Deloitte in January. Still, Weil doesn’t like the smell of it. And it doesn’t stop with the PCAOB:

[T]alk about being wired: The SEC’s chief accountant, James Kroeker, is a Deloitte alumnus. At the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which writes U.S. accounting rules, the wife of one board member, Russell Golden, is a Deloitte partner.

Look, we like Jon (even if he is a Colorado grad). But how do you find accounting policy makers who aren’t from the biggest, best connected firms that have the most resources? Should the Commission start appointing academics to develop policy? Eeek. Or maybe we’ll let the public make recommendations, “Yeah, my cousin’s a CPA out of Tulsa. Really knows his stuff. He’d be good.” Please.

Dan Goelzer’s seat is coming up and he’ll be replaced by a CPA. Weil hopes that the SEC will find “a qualified person without Big 4 allegiances” but with the revolving door spinning, he’d better hope for a wild card.

Goldman Sachs Envy Gains New Meaning at Big Four [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]

PCAOB Officially Proposes That Audit Firms Name Names

For some time now, the PCAOB has been talking about making audit partners famous (at least to investors that are paying attention) in ways that they aren’t too thrilled about. Earlier today the Board issued a proposal for comment that will do just that.

The proposed amendments would:

• require registered public accounting firms to disclose the name of the engagement partner in the audit report,
• amend the Board’s Annual Report Form to require registered firms to disclosgagement partner for each audit report already required to be reported on the form, and
•require disclosure in the audit report of other accounting firms and certain other participants that took part in the audit.

So if you can consider yourself an astute observer of auditing policy and regs, they’d love to hear your thoughts. However, it would be greatly appreciated if you didn’t take your cues from the FASB letters and kept things constructive.

All of the Board Members made statements, including PCAOB Chairman Jim Doty (full statement on page 2) who sees this latest proposal as good sense:

I fail to see why shareholders in BNP Paribas, listed on the Euronext Paris exchange, should be able to see the name of the engagement partner in the audit report, but shareholders in Citigroup, listed on the New York Stock Exchange should not. Indeed, the names of engagement partners for some European companies that are listed on the NYSE are disclosed in U.S. filings. Why are shareholders in France Telecom to be favored over shareholders in AT&T?

And then there’s Steven Harris’s statement (in full on page 3). Harris, who is known to speak frankly about auditors, finds the proposal okay enough but would really like to see the audit partners’ John Hancocks:

While I support an identification of the engagement partner, I continue to strongly support, and would have preferred, a requirement for the engagement partner to actually sign his or her name on the audit report. My views, which I stated when the Board last publicly discussed the issue in July 2009, have not changed. Very fundamentally, I believe that nothing focuses the mind quite like putting one’s individual signature on a document.

And for good measure, he threw in this:

Many find it ironic that auditing firms in the United States, whose business is providing assurance about the transparency provided by others, resist publicly providing their own financial statements. There is no apparent reason that the auditing firms that act as gatekeepers to our securities markets should not be as transparent to investors as the companies they audit.

If you agree with Mr. Harris and happen to have a copy of your firm’s financial statements, feel free to pass it along. Or if you’d rather not wait to make your thoughts known on the Board’s proposals, you may drop them in the comments below.

Doty Statement on Transparency Proposal

Harris Statement 10-11-11

PCAOB, Possibly Fed Up with China’s Stonewalling, Goes After Some Low-Hanging Fruit

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board today announced a cooperative agreement with the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway for the oversight of audit work performed by public accounting firms that practice in the two regulators’ respective jurisdictions. “With this agreement, Norway’s FSA and the PCAOB are joining forces to improve audit quality and protect investors,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty. “I am pleased that the PCAOB is continuing to make progress in overcoming the obstacles that have in the past prevented PCAOB inspections in Europe.” [PCAOB]

Who Are the Most Influential People in Accounting? (2011)

Accounting Today released its Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting (free registration required) late yesterday and it seems to be a tad more interesting than in years past. Sure, there are plenty of predictable names and faces in the list but any list that has Dave Albrecht, Paul Caron, and Grover Norquist is okay by me.

That said, it’s still in alphabetical order which may not appropriately present who the influenciest influencers are. I mean does sticking a man with a last name that starts with “N” and ends in “quist” somewhere in the middle of the pack (only a few spots in front of the POTUS) truly show how influential he is? It’s just a question.

ANYWAY, here are some notables that you’ll probably recognize:


Dave Albrecht – Associate Professor at Concordia College, The Summa
C.E. Andrews – President, RSM McGladrey
Paul Caron – TaxProf Blog
Stephen Chipman – CEO, Grant Thornton
James Doty – Chairman, PCAOB
Joe Echevarria – CEO, Deloitte
Michelle Golden – President, Golden Practices
Tom Hood – CEO, Executive Director Maryland Association of CPAs
Hans Hoogervorst – Chairman, IASB
Robert Moritz – Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC
Caleb Newquist – Founding Editor, Going Concern
Grover Norquist – President and Founder, Americans for Tax Reform
Barack Obama – President of the United States
Barry Salzberg – CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
Mary Schapiro – Chair, SEC
Doug Shulman – IRS Commissioner
Jim Turley – Global Chairman and CEO, Ernst & Young
John Veihmeyer – Chairman and CEO, KPMG
Jack Weisbaum – CEO, BDO

I cherry-picked this list obviously because it’s a bit of a pain to re-type all of them, so don’t hold that against me. Still how two Swedes and two Barrys got mashed together is kind of odd. And on a more personal note, I’d really feel awful if I was the one who took Dennis Nally’s spot. Go check out the full list and discuss at your leisure.

Top 100 Influential People in Accounting [AT]

Who Has Thoughts on Mandatory Auditor Rotation?

Because the PCAOB is giving you until December 14th to make your views known.

“One cannot talk about audit quality without discussing independence, skepticism and objectivity. Any serious discussion of these qualities must take into account the fundamental conflict of the audit client paying the auditor,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty.

“The reason to consider auditor term limits is that they may reduce the pressure auditors face to develop and protect long-term client relationships to the detriment of investors and our capital markets,” Chairman Doty added.

Don’t fret anti-rotaters, the Board did invite everyone to weigh in on the idea that they “should consider a rotation requirement only for audit tenures of more than 10 years or only for the largest issuer audits.”

[PCAOB]

PCAOB Chairman James Doty Is Concerned That Some Auditors Either Don’t Care or Are Completely Ignorant About the Notion of Independence

As you may have heard, PCAOB Chairman Jim Doty gave a speech at the University of Southern California yesterday where he discussed among other things, the possibility of mandatory auditor rotation and changing the standard auditor’s report. The prospect of these two changes aren’t exactly something auditors are stoked about but some people are of the opinion that a) auditors like to get a little too chummy with their clients which leads to b) not taking the “independence” thing too seriously and c) the auditor’s report, in its current form, its pretty much worthless.

You can read Doty’s entire speech over at the PCAOB website where touches on all of these but here’s one example around independence that probably qualifies for, in Doty’s words, “[an] approach [to] the audit with an inappropriate mindset”

[An] audit partner’s self-assessment claimed that he “overcame long-standing barriers against non-audit services at [two audit clients] with a series of well-planned meetings and supporting presentations with the Audit Committee Chair, the full Audit Committee, the CEO and the CFO at both companies.”

In response, his reviewing partner noted that he was –

highly alert to cross service line opportunities and has successfully penetrated both of his accounts where few services had been
provided in the past. The results of these efforts were a number of proposals and wins but the efforts will likely impact FY 11 in [a] more significant way.

Anyway, there are other stories of bad auditor behavior, so check the whole speech if you feel so inclined. And while Chairman Doty admitted that “We don’t see these problems in all the files we look at,” it causes he and others to wonder if “these audit partners are unaware of, or simply unconcerned about, the independence rule that should make such considerations irrelevant to their compensation, and why a firm would allow such unawareness or unconcern to continue unabated.”

So flagrantly bending the rules to the point where they might as well be breaking or stupidity? Neither is too flattering.

PCAOB Chairman Doty Shares Some Confusing Statements Made by Auditors

Yesterday, prior to today’s excitement regarding Satyam and PwC, PCAOB Chairman James Doty spoke at the The Council of Institutional Investors 2011 Spring Meeting and he had some interesting things to say about the audit profession, specifically that auditors don’t always remember that “protecting investors” ≠ “client service”:

Time and time again, we’ve seen services that might be valuable to management reduce the auditor’s objectivity, and thus reduce the value of the audit to investors. While management may need the services, they just don’t have to get them from the auditor.

Audit firms call this “client service,” and it makes things terribly confusing. When the hard questions of supporting management’s financial presentation arise, the engagement partner is often enlisted as an advocate to argue management’s case to the technical experts in the national office of the audit firm. The mortgaging of audit objectivity can even begin at the outset of the relationship, with the pitch to get the client.

Consider the way these formulations of the audit engagement that we’ve uncovered through our inspections process might prejudice quality:

• “Simply stated we want management to view us as a trusted partner that can assist with the resolution of issues and structuring of transactions.”

• We will “support the desired outcome where the audit team may be confronted with an issue that merits consultation with our National Office.”

• Our audit decisions are “made by the global engagement partner with no second guessing or National Office reversals.”

Huh. Doty doesn’t name names but you could easily interpret those statements as one made by a client advocate, not a white knight for investors. He continues:

Or, to demonstrate how confusing the value proposition could be even to those auditors who try to articulate it:

• We will provide you “with the best, value-added audit service in the most cost effective and least disruptive manner by eliminating non-value added procedures.”

(What is a “non-value added procedure”? Whose value do you think the claim refers to? If a procedure is valuable to investors but doesn’t add value to management, will it be scrapped?)

In other words, “we promise that we won’t be pests” and “value” will be a game-time decision. And finally:

Or, consider this as a possible audit engagement formula for misunderstanding down the road:

• We will deliver a “reduced footprint in the organization, lessening audit fatigue.”

(What is “audit fatigue”? Does accommodating it add value to investors? How should investors feel about a “reduced footprint”?)

Yes, what is “audit fatigue”? Is that what happens to second and third-year senior associates every February/March? Or is this better articulated by “we know audits are annoying and our hope is that we won’t annoy you too much.”?

Taking this (the whole speech is worth a read) and everything else that happened today into account, it will be interesting to hear what Mr Doty has to say at tomorrow’s hearing.

Looking Ahead: Auditor Oversight [PCAOB]
Also see: Watchdogs caught nuzzling and wagging tails; auditor sales pitches exposed [WaPo]

Who’s Ready for Changes to the Auditor’s Report?

“We heard from investors that they want more information in the auditor’s report. Investor dissatisfaction with the current auditor’s reporting model should concern other constituents as well, including preparers, auditors and regulators,” said PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty. “Today’s report from our own staff, based on their discussions with a broad audience, will be vital to the Board’s effort to develop a meaningful proposal for change in a concept release. Our intention is to expose such a release as early as this summer.” [PCAOB]

The PCAOB Has Some Thoughts on This Chinese Reverse Merger Trend

In the past few months you may have heard a thing or two about small Chinese companies making their way into the U.S. by virtue of a reverse merger. If you’re not familiar, it was a speciality of the firm formerly known as Frazer Frost who got out of the business altogether because of a “culture clash” and “issues in the Chinese reverse mortgage practice area.”

All this has gotten the attention of the PCAOB who issued a Research Note (full document after the jump) today discussing t–more–>
Recently minted PCAOB Chair Jim Doty sprinkled in some thoughts for the press release but we obtained this statement from the Chairmn in case you anyone thinks they aren’t taking this shit seriously (my emphasis):

“As the PCAOB Research Note describes, small Chinese companies are increasingly seeking access to capital and trading in U.S. securities markets. The PCAOB has inspected the audits of many of these companies, when they were performed by U.S.-based audit firms. In some cases PCAOB inspection teams have identified significant audit deficiencies and, as necessary, made appropriate referrals for enforcement to protect investors’ interests in reliable audit reports.

“Many other such companies are audited by accounting firms in China. To date, the PCAOB has been denied access to determine through inspection whether such firms have complied with PCAOB standards. This state of affairs is bad for investors, companies and auditors alike. If Chinese companies want to attract U.S. capital for the long term, and if Chinese auditors want to garner the respect of U.S. investors, they need the credibility that comes from being part of a joint inspection process that includes the US and other similarly constituted regulatory regimes.”

Depending on how you perceive the role of auditors, this might seem like be a meaningless statement. But since China’s economy is going gangbusters and Big 4 firms are salivating at the thought of the fees associated with their introduction to the U.S. market, the temptation to help these companies comply with the U.S. rules might be high for an ambitious parter, office or firm.

That said, according to Table 8 of the PCAOB’s Research Note, no Big 4 firm had more than three CRM companies as of March 31, 2010 and now after Deloitte’s resignation from CCME, any partners that were entertaining the idea of chasing these companies could be having second thoughts.

Chinese Reverse Merger Research Note