With 2015 audit inspection field work wrapping up, it looks like the overall number of deficiencies called out by inspectors may fall for the larger firms, but not across every large firm.
That’s the early assessment from Jim Doty, chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which he shared recently with the board’s Standing Advisory Group. “Overall early results indicate that the number of deficiencies identified in the engagements inspected appears to be declining from the 2014 inspections results,” he said. “These results vary for each firm, and not all firms saw a reduction in deficiencies.”
Doty said inspectors are nearly complete with their 2015 inspections and are beginning to accumulate their findings and draft reports. Internal controls, accounting estimates, and revenue recognition apparently will remain common themes in those 2015 reports, according to Doty’s prepared remarks. “Inspections staff have continued to identify deficiencies in the same areas in 2015, including in audits of internal control over financial reporting,” he said.
Auditors would do well, said Doty, to review their practices around risk assessments, which was a theme of a general report issued by the board regarding implementation of the new risk assessment standards in 2012. “Because risk assessment underlies the entire audit process, it is critical that audit firms address these findings of weaknesses in their compliance with risk assessment standards,” he said.
Among the Big 4 in 2014, the PCAOB found fault with a low of 21 percent of engagements at Deloitte, a reduction from the prior year, to a high of 54 percent at KPMG, an increase from the year before. At PwC, the deficiency rate was 29 percent, while at EY it was 36 percent, both of which represented improvements over the year before. Among second-tier firms, Crowe Horwath improved slightly from the prior year, while RSM (the recently renamed McGladrey) went the other direction. Results are not yet public for BDO USA or Grant Thornton.
The PCAOB chairman, whose reappointment by the Securities and Exchange Commission is still unknown, also acknowledged some organized criticism of the PCAOB inspection approach. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has initiated meetings with key people at the PCAOB and the SEC to assert inspection findings are driving costly, unnecessary audit work. “We have been engaging in conversations with those parties to listen to their concerns and consider how to improve communication and audit quality in this area,” Doty said.