Tag Archive | "audit industry"

Big Four accused of dereliction of duty


The Big Four’s domination of the audit market came under threat last week when the House of Lords recommended a detailed Office of Fair Trading investigation.

This investigation would be the first time the Big Four have been investigated since a full scale competition investigation was discounted in 2002, following the collapse of Arthur Andersen.

The regulators also came under fire as the House of Lords committee slammed both groups for dereliction of duty and said the breakdown of communications between regulators and auditors compounded the financial crisis.

Box-ticking International Financial Reporting Standards were in the limelight and the Lords recommended that caution should once again become the guiding principle of audit.

The economic affairs committee has now published its report on the eight-month investigation into the UK audit market. The inquiry said that large firms are limited in their choice of auditors because of the oligopoly of the Big Four. Last year, they conducted the audit of all but one of the FTSE 100 organisations and these large companies tend to stick with the same auditor for an average 48 years.

The report went on to point out that there is a risk of one of the firms dropping out of the audit market and this would lead to an unacceptable level of market concentration.

The committee recommends, amongst other things, that companies in the FTSE 350 must put their audit contract out to tender every five years and that external auditors are banned from giving internal advisory services and advice to the risk committees of firms they audit.

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There needs to be more competition in the audit market place


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.

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