联合审计不是市场竞争的“权宜之计”


文章来自|ECONOMIA


ICAEW提醒,对富时350指数(FTSE 350)市场实施联合审计,将带来严重的混乱和成本,可能需要长达10年的时间来实施,而不一定会为审计公司带来更多的选择。


如果英国竞争和市场监管局(CMA)坚持某种形式的双事务所审计 ——一家四大和一家相对规模较小的公司 – 而不是采取细分的市场份额上限,那么共同审计将会是更好的选择。


ICAEW在回应英国商业能源工业战略部门 (BEIS’)就CMA改革审计市场的初步协商,指出CMA对于FTSE350公司强制实行联合审计的提议并没有得到广泛的支持。


FTSE350公司对所涉及的额外管理时间以及不得不投标两家审计公司而导致的不可避免的混乱感到不满,而投资者最终也必须支付两家审计公司的审计费用。“除非有证据表明联合审计提高了审计质量,否则股东可能不会欢迎联合审计给被审计单位带来的更高成本。”ICAEW回应。


这一点很重要,因为与审计有关的所有不同项目-金曼、CMA、BEIS委员会和Brydon-的“最重要问题”是审计质量,并确保审计质量不断提高以满足审计利益相关者的期望。


“任何时候实际竞争者的数量是很重要但是也是次要的,不会直接和审计质量有关联。”ICAEW说到,如果监督和立法干预让更多公司进入大型企业和PIE审计市场,但会严重损害审计质量,并显著增加审计客户的成本,这并不是一个好的结果。 


但是,ICAEW也相信联合审计或共享审计可以帮助挑战者公司获得相关经验,充足的时间,精力和声誉,虽然他们面临重大的实际障碍,但总有一方能获得成功。


例如,当现有的审计提出招标时,它们需要时间来分阶段实施。挑战者公司将不得不投资招聘和培训新员工,调整他们的审计程序,加强他们的质量控制和风险管理系统。


还有一个棘手的保险问题。如ICAEW所说“审计公司在联合审计的情况下要面临连带责任,这不是他们想要的。”


“在现行制度下,事务所不仅要对自己的行为负责,而且对公司和其他审计事务所的行为负责。各联合审计事务所对另一家审计公司的雇员的工作负有责任,而它们对于这些雇员没有控制或监督,也没有办法管理其风险。”


挑战者公司会对四大审计大型复杂的公司时的审计行为负责,但他们现有的专业赔偿保险还不足以支撑。


ICAEW建议,挑战者公司可能需要建立自我保险计划,以覆盖更高水平的风险。“在许多情况,如果不进行一些改革,责任机制很可能成为一个障碍。


与联合审计相比,共同审计的好处是,可以根据事务所进行审计的各个组成部分来分摊责任。它们也会更便宜,因为它们不涉及同样的重复工作。


ICAEW还敦促BEIS不要强制分割四大在审计和非审计实践之间的业务。协会说没有证据表明,参与四大总利润的审计总利润的审计合作伙伴对其审计业务的判断质量有任何影响。


协会还不赞同将全面结构分离的威胁作为今后的一项措施。执行工作既代价高昂,又具有潜在的破坏性。吸收独立的专业知识的复杂性和受影响公司的国际网络的潜在反应不应该被低估,特别是在压缩的“繁忙季节”。


协会表示:“我们认为,完全结构分离的大型审计公司不会给英国市场带来任何净收益。”


考虑到CMA提议的不实用性和潜在的结果,ICAEW希望看到进一步的协商,以及联合和共同审计的试点,以确保最后一揽子方案带来有效的改革。


如果这发生,会给英国带来极大的机遇,“Kingman Review的监管和Brydon Review的高质量高效审计结合的结果是,他们会成为国际范例,让英国在解决影响其他地区的问题上显示出领导力。


ICAEW还提醒人们注意英国退欧后继续成为一个“公平、开放、欢迎外来投资的经济体”的重要性。


“稳健的审计和公司报告是其中的一个关键部分,但绝不能造成不成比例的成本。


“我们应小心确保一揽子措施支持和加强英国的审计部门,不妨碍英国作为主要出口国的国际竞争力。”



Joint audits no “quick fix” for market competition


To impose joint audit on the FTSE 350 market will involve significant disruption and cost and could take up to 10 years to implement without necessarily resulting in a wider choice of audit firms, ICAEW has warned


If the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) insists on some form of two-firm audit – using a Big Four firm and one of the smaller, challenger firms – rather than adopting segmented market share caps, then shared audit would be the better option.


In its response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS’) initial consultation on the CMA’s recommendations for reforming the audit market, ICAEW points out that the CMA proposal to introduce mandatory joint audit for most FTSE 350 companies has not been universally welcomed.


FTSE 350 companies are unhappy about the additional management time involved and the inevitable disruption that will result from having to tender for two audit firms, while investors will ultimately have to bear the increased costs of paying for two firms to do the audit work. “Until such time that evidence show that joint audit increases audit quality, shareholders may not welcome the higher costs that joint audit will likely impose on the audited entities,” the response says.


This is important, given that the “paramount issue” at the heart of all the different projects relating to audit – Kingman, the CMA, BEIS Committee and Brydon – is audit quality and ensuring it continues to improve to meet the expectations of audit stakeholders.


“The actual number of competitors operating at any time is an important but secondary aspect and not necessarily directly connected to audit quality,” ICAEW says. “It would not be a positive outcome if regulatory or legislative interventions brought more firms into the market for large corporate and PIE [public interest entity] audits, but seriously jeopardised quality and significantly increased costs for audit customers.”


Nevertheless, ICAEW believes that joint or shared audits would help the challenger firms acquire relevant experience and, “with sufficient time, effort and goodwill”, either could be made to work although both face “significant practical obstacles”.


For instance, they would take time to implement as they would need to be phased in as and when existing audits come up for tender. Challenger firms would have to invest in recruiting and training new staff, adapting their audit processes and enhancing their quality control and risk management systems.


There is also the vexed question of insurance. As ICAEW says, “The prospect of joint and several liability is likely to be unattractive to both audit firms in a joint audit situation.


“Under the current regime, firms are not just held accountable for their own actions but also, potentially, for the actions of those in the company and the other audit firm. Each joint audit firm would become liable for the work of employees of another audit firm over whom they have no control or supervision and little means of managing their risk exposure.


“Challenger firms would become liable for the actions of the Big Four firms on very large and complex audited entities where existing professional indemnity cover may be insufficient.”

ICAEW suggests that the challenger firms might need to establish self-insurance schemes to cover the higher level of risk. “The liability regime is likely to prove a barrier in many situations without some reform.”


The advantage of shared over joint audit is that liability could be apportioned according to which components of the audit the firm carried out. They would also be cheaper because they do not involve the same duplication of work.


ICAEW also urges BEIS not to mandate operational splits in the Big Four firms between audit and non-audit practices. It says there is no evidence that audit partners participating in the overall profits of the Big Four has any effect on the quality of the judgments they make on their audit engagements. The focus instead should be on strengthening and reinforcing the overall culture within each firm.


It also rejects the idea of keeping the threat of a full structural separation in reserve as a future measure. Implementation would be both costly and potentially damaging. “The complexities of contracting independent expertise, often during a condensed ‘busy season’, and the potential reaction of the international networks of the affected firms, should not be underestimated.


“We do not see any net benefit to the UK market for large company audits from a full structural separation,” it said.


Given the “untried” nature of some of the CMA proposals and their potential consequences, ICAEW would like to see further consultation, as well as pilots of joint and shared audits, to ensure that the final package delivers effective reforms.


If that happens, it would open up opportunities for the UK. “The outcomes of the Kingman Review of regulation and the Brydon Review of the quality and effectiveness of audit may well combine to produce a programme which becomes an international exemplar and allows Britain to show global readership in developing solutions to issues affecting many other major jurisdictions.”


ICAEW also draws attention to the importance of the UK continuing to be a “fair, open, welcoming economy for inward investment” post-Brexit.


“Robust audit and corporate reporting are a key part of this, but it must not be a disproportionate cost.


“We should be careful to ensure that the package of measures supports and strengthens the audit sector in the UK and does not impeded its international competitiveness as a key export.”