The database created by regulators to identify engagement partners overseeing public company audits is growing, with engagement partners on about 175 public company audits now identified.
“AuditorSearch” is the serial-marked public database created by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to assemble audit firm filings of Form AP. After years of effort to pull back the curtain and reveal who oversees public company audits, the PCAOB adopted a requirement for audit firms to file Form AP at the completion of each public company engagement to provide the name of engagement partners as well as information on others from outside the principal audit firm who contributed to the audit effort.
Audit firms are required to file Form AP to name engagement partners for audit reports issued on or after Jan. 31, 2017. Firms have another six months after that date before they are required to provide information on other accounting firms that participated in the audit. As such, the database so far contains only engagement partner information. Firms are required to file Form AP with the PCAOB within 35 days of an audit report being filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
When the PCAOB began its pursuit of greater transparency around engagement partners, it initially proposed requiring engagement partners to sign audit reports, much the way CEOs and CFOs must certify financial statements with their personal signatures. The audit profession and its legal counsel countered that the signature requirement, or even naming engagement partners in audit reports, would unfairly increase their personal liability.
The PCAOB responded by shifting to a separate filing through the new Form AP. The added benefit for investors or others interested in researching the information is that the PCAOB decided to make the Form AP filings accessible through a searchable database, something that might not have happened under a signature or naming requirement on the face of the audit report.
With the requirement in effect only a few weeks, the database contained the names of about 175 issuers with their engagement partners identified. Big 4 firms account for the vast majority of filings so far, with Deloitte and PWC identifying more than 40 engagement partners each, EY nearly 40, and KPMG about 20. In addition to identifying engagement partners on issuers of securities, audit firms also must identify engagement partners on audits of investment companies and employee benefit plans, so the database also contains those details as well.
The database identifies engagement partners on some major corporate audits such as General Motors, GM Financial, Comcast, Boeing, NBC, Dow Chemical, Facebook, Lockheed Martin, Amazon, Southwest Airlines, PayPal, BioGen, Ford, Goodyear, DuPont, Mastercard, 3M, eBay, Corning, Raytheon, T-Mobile, and many others. The majority of Big 4 engagement partners named in the database so far are attached to only one public company audit, except for a handful of cases where the same name is given for different entities that are related.
PwC, for example, names John Koppin as the engagement partner for both DTE Energy Co. and DTE Electric Co. Likewise, Kristina Etherington at Deloitte oversees audits for both Caesars Acquisition Co. and Caesars Growth Properties Holdings. One smaller firm, Freed Maxick, names one engagement partner for four different audits, three of them related entities.
The PCAOB’s website says the database is updated daily.