The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) on Wednesday fined two EY partners for “failing to perform adequate procedures and obtain sufficient evidence concerning certain significant unusual transactions” in connection with the Big Four firm’s audit of a New Jersey software company.
Alison Yablonowitz and Shawn Rogers were ordered to pay $25,000 and $10,000, respectively, for their alleged lapses while serving as engagement partners on EY’s audits of Synchronoss Technologies’ financial statements for the years ended 2014 through 2016. Without admitting or denying the PCAOB’s findings, Yablonowitz agreed to a one-year suspension from being associated with a public accounting firm, while Rogers was censured.
Both partners are further required to complete 20 additional hours of continuing professional education (CPE) within a year of the order.
As the engagement partner on the 2014 and 2015 Synchronoss audits, Yablonowitz’s violations occurred relating to “audit procedures to test the accounting for three software license transactions,” the PCAOB stated. Rogers, the 2016 engagement partner, allegedly failed regarding testing the accounting for two software license transactions.
“In each of the transactions, Synchronoss licensed software technology to an entity—in exchange for a license fee—around the same time it was negotiating a strategic transaction (i.e., an acquisition, business venture, or divestiture) with that same entity or one or more of its affiliates,” the PCAOB explained. “In each instance, Synchronoss incorrectly accounted for the license transaction as separate from the strategic transaction and improperly recognized the license payment as revenue.”
The licensing fees in the transactions ranged from $6 million to $23 millon.
Yablonowitz and Rogers each failed in evaluating Synchronoss’s improper accounting for the license transactions, according to the regulator. The two also failed to exercise due care and skepticism in obtaining sufficient evidence to support EY’s audit opinions for the 2014-16 audits, instead relying on “uncorroborated management representations.”
An audit committee investigation led to Synchronoss in July 2018 filing a Form 10-K restating its financial statements for the years ended 2015 and 2016, as well as selected financial data for the year ended 2014 and other periods. “Synchronoss’s restatement reversed revenue from all five software license transactions at issue,” the PCAOB noted.