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Brussels Looks to Break Open Audit Market

Global Glimpses | November 30, 2008

Brussels officials are looking for ideas to break open the European Union audit market, which the Big 4 accounting firms dominate. The European Commission has been worried for some time about the lack of auditor choice for large companies and says the recent financial turmoil might actually widen the gap between the four biggest firms and their second-tier rivals.

In a new consultation paper the Commission says it wants to “find catalysts to stimulate the emergence of new players in the international audit market.” Specifically, it wants ideas on whether new players could challenge the Big 4 if Europe eased its strict rules on who can own an audit firm and how a firm can raise finance. It also wants thoughts on whether that kind of deregulation would threaten auditor independence.

More widely, the Commission is fishing around for other ideas that would encourage firms outside the...

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