More than a quarter of companies citing COVID-19 in their critical audit matters (CAMs) filed with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) are part of the financial services industry, according to research from Audit Analytics.
A study published Wednesday focused on approximately 2,700 audit opinions containing CAMs for listed companies with fiscal years ending after March 1, 2020. Of those opinions, only 12.7 percent included at least one reference to COVID-19, according to Audit Analytics. Drilling deeper into those opinions, 25.4 percent originated from companies in financial services.
CAMs are defined by the PCAOB as any matter arising from the audit that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee relating to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements, and involve especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment. Though COVID-19 is not a CAM itself, its effects on areas of the audit lend to the potential of it being cited in the explanation of why something was determined to be a CAM.
The Audit Analytics study noted CAM areas that most cited COVID-19 over the period analyzed included intangible assets (i.e., goodwill) at 48.4 percent, fixed assets (14.9 percent), and other assets (14.4 percent). Investments (4.2 percent) and income taxes (3.9 percent) were among less frequent areas.
That the majority of COVID-19 CAMs cited by the study came from companies in financial services is unsurprising given the economic strains brought by the pandemic. Banks and other financial institutions have been operationalized in new ways, leading to additional complexities. Audit Analytics also noted adoption efforts regarding ASC 326 (CECL) as another hurdle for the industry.
Behind financial services in reporting pandemic-related CAMs was the industrial industry (17. 5 percent), followed by consumer cyclical (15.2 percent), energy (7.3 percent), and communications services (6.7 percent). Utilities and healthcare were among industries with the fewest amount of CAMs to mention COVID-19.