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Board members wary of CAM disclosures in audit reports

Tammy Whitehouse | September 12, 2017

Roughly half of public company board members say the inclusion of “critical audit matters” in audit reports will not make reports more transparent or useful to investors, and a similar number expect the exercise to make their jobs more difficult.

That’s the sentiment, at least, of about 130 board members who participated in BDO USA’s latest annual survey, which takes a pulse on public company boards regarding corporate governance and financial reporting trends. They’re not looking forward to the requirement auditors will soon face to disclose in audit reports any CAMs that made the audit especially difficult or challenging, assuming the requirement is approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board developed the controversial disclosure requirement as a way to give investors and other users of financial statements some insight into what troubled auditors most as they completed their audits of financial statements and internal control over financial reporting. The requirement defines CAMs as any issue discussed or required to be discussed with the audit committee relating to material accounts that involved particularly complex, subjective, or challenging audit judgments.

In BDO’s survey, only 36 percent of directors said they believed such a disclosure would represent an improvement in the standard audit report, which has become highly boilerplate over many years in issuing a pass-or-fail audit opinion. Another 16 percent of directors said they weren’t sure whether the disclosure would improve audit reports.

While companies wait to hear whether the SEC will approve the PCAOB CAM disclosure requirement, which is standard procedure for all PCAOB standards, 82 percent of board members said they are actively working with management on other epic accounting changes in financial statements around revenue recognition, leasing, and credit losses. In addition, 74 percent said they are also working with management on how best to communicate with shareholders, regulators, and other stakeholders on the changes that are in store as a result of the new accounting requirements.

The survey also suggests corporate board members are losing hope when it comes to getting any kind of meaningful tax reform developed in 2017. More than three-fourths of board members said they believe tax reform will happen at some point during the current presidential term, but only 22 percent believe it will happen in 2017.