Another study on audit committee disclosures confirms that audit committees are trying to raise the bar in terms of how much they tell investors about their oversight of the external audit.
The Center for Audit Quality and Audit Analytics have published their 2016 Audit Committee Transparency Barometer based on their review of proxy disclosures by audit committees among the S&P 1500. EY earlier released its analysis of the same disclosures by Fortune 100 companies.
The CAQ/AA analysis shows nearly one-third of S&P 500 companies have raised their discussion of how the audit committee considers and recommends the appointment of the audit firm, up 13 percent from a similar analysis in 2014. Among S&P mid-cap companies, 22 percent of audit committees said more on the same subject, and 17 percent of small-cap companies did the same. Those figures also are up from the 2014 analysis.
Companies are under some gentle pressure from regulators to give investors more of a view into how the external audit is managed after the Securities and Exchange Commission published a concept release exploring a number of possible changes to disclosure requirements. The SEC has not moved forward on any of the ideas, however.
When it comes to discussing the audit committee’s role in negotiating audit fees, the CAQ/AA analysis says 17 percent of the largest companies addressed the subject, up from only 8 percent in 2014. As for evaluating or supervising the audit firm, 34 percent of the largest companied provided voluntary enhanced disclosure, a significant jump from the 8 percent who did so two years earlier.
In fact, the joint CAQ/AA report says while improvements in all three group of companies — the largest, mid-cap and small-cap companies — were encouraging, the increases generally are most notable among the S&P 500. “Between 2014 and 2015, it was noted that many companies were beginning to consolidate audit committee-related disclosures within the proxy,” AA says. “This effort to more clearly organize audit committee disclosures was encouraging to note, but the development of the quality of these disclosures seen between 2015 and 2016 is even more promising.”
For audit committees looking for examples of enhanced disclosure to model, the CAQ/AA report provides examples. A recent blog post by Audit Analytics provides a detailed comparison of one company’s enhanced disclosure across a variety of audit oversight topics.