The Big Four audit firms have made it virtually impossible for smaller firms to have a fair chance, according to BDO .
The mid-tier firm made the statement in its written evidence to the House of Lords economic affairs committee tasked to investigate the lack of competition  in the audit industry. The submission said that both domestic and international investors want to see more competition. Companies also want more choice but potential entrants have difficulties raising enough money to enter the market.
BDO also said that although there is no evidence to suggest that the dominance had affected quality, there is evidence that it has caused an increase in prices.
James Roberts, a partner at BDO, suggests that increasing audit exemption levels would benefit many UK companies.
BDO has joined forces with three other mid-tier firms; Grant Thornton International, Mazars and RSM International to call for changes in auditing procedures in order to prevent another global economic crisis .
The gang of four issued a joint statement swiping the dominance of the Big Four and saying that we must all learn from the economic downturn and accept that “no change” is no longer an option. They also call for the creation of an EU single market  for auditing which will have common international standards.
Michel Barnier, the EU internal markets commissioner, pointed out that the reputation of the audit profession had been damaged by the financial crisis and there is a need to encourage more competitiveness within the market. He suggested placing ceilings on the larger audit firms’  total market share of limited companies and joint auditing, whereby two different firms conducted the audit, one of which was not a Big Four firm, as possible solutions.
The Financial Reporting Council’s  chief executive, Stephen Haddrill, was not in favour of the joint audit proposal. Instead, he would prefer to see financial institutions using non-Big Four firms when they need advice for their risk committees. He also warned that a audit regulators need to develop a contingency plan in case one of the Big Four collapsed.
© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Image: Pigeons  by the12thplaya