The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is getting mixed feedback on its initial ideas for revising guidance on auditing fair value measurements and accounting estimates.
The PCAOB has received nearly 40 letter commenting on the staff's consultation paper on auditing accounting estimates and fair value measurement, said associate chief auditor Barbara Vanich, in a recent presentation to the PCAOB’s Standing Advisory Group. “Many of the comment letters were very supportive of outreach efforts made through the paper and applauded the effort,” she said. “A few organizations didn’t believe we should change the existing standards, but overall people thought it was good that we were examining them.”
While most were supportive of the board’s efforts, “many of the letters contained diverse views on maybe how to get to a solution,” she said. Some comments suggested revising existing rules, while others suggested a single comprehensive new standard, and still others suggested getting the Securities and Exchange Commission involved to look at areas that fall outside the PCAOB’s auditing authority. “Some suggested the topic of fair value measurements and accounting estimates might require a response broader than just an auditing standard,” she said.
Letters writers especially asked the PCAOB to take a closer look at the auditor’s conundrum when the range of uncertainty within a particular estimate exceeds the materiality threshold, Vanich said. Some suggested auditors should respond accordingly with tougher audit procedures. Some said auditors should report such huge estimate uncertainty in the audit report, or perhaps a management disclosure might be in order.
The Center for Audit Quality, for example, told the PCAOB it should develop a comprehensive standard to promote consistency and effectiveness, aligned with existing risk assessment standards. CAQ says the PCAOB should retain current approaches to substantive testing but add audit procedures to apply specifically to fair value measurements and accounting estimates, and establish more specific audit procedures relating to the use of outside specialists to arrive at such estimates.
Audit firms have taken considerable criticism from the PCAOB in recent years in their work around fair value and accounting estimates, prompting PwC in 2012 to call on the regulators in a letter attached to an unflattering inspection report to clarify their standards. According to its most recent standard-setting agenda, the PCAOB plans to issue a consultation paper in the first quarter of 2015 on the use of specialists but does not have a specified time line for acting on fair value measurements and accounting estimates.