The Public Company Accounting Oversight is prepared to defend its regulatory approach until it hears more specific evidence to suggest something is awry, according to remarks at a recent public meeting.
At a gathering of its Investor Advisory Group, PCAOB Chairman Jim Doty said he was prepared to meet with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, but he wanted the chamber to produce preparers who could discuss their own direct experiences that reflect the complaints the chamber outlined in a 19-page letter calling on the PCAOB to reconsider its inspections approach.
“The ground rules for meetings is we should have people who had actually experienced the issues being discussed (in the letter),” Doty said. “Hearsay is not helpful. We want to know where preparers really have been engaged with auditors and have incidents and details to report that should cause us, the regulators, or the audit firms to consider the process of internal control auditing.”
SEC Chief Accountant Jim Schnurr also addressed the IAG to say he and Doty had met previously with representatives of the Chamber organization to discuss their concerns. Schnurr said regulators told the chamber: “To address the concerns, we would need to get very granular about the fact patterns.”
There could be any number of potential problems to explore, Schnurr said, with auditing standards, execution by auditors, interpretation of standards by auditors or the inspection teams, guidance given to auditors from their firms, or in the interplay of auditing standards with SEC guidance to management. “The only way to understand would be to get very specific fact patterns from preparers, where their control structure was, and where they were having issues with auditors.”
Helen Munter, director of registration and inspections for the PCAOB, told the IAG while not all inspection reports are published from the 2014 cycle, deficiencies in internal control audits in particular continue to be worrisome. “We saw some improvement at certain firms, but deficiencies are still high.” The auditing standard governing the internal control audit, Auditing Standard No. 5, has been in effect since 2007, she noted. “It has not changed,” she said. “Nor have our expectations about the audit work changed. But there continue to be challenges.”
Some auditors continue to apply an approach that is too mechanical and not adequately tailored toward risk, said Munter. “That, of course, can lead to an ineffective audit,” she said. The most common problems for auditors, she said is in understanding a company’s flow of transactions, testing of management review controls, and testing of system-generated reports or data.
The Chamber of Commerce and the PCAOB did not immediately report on the outcome of their planned session to discuss the concerns raised by the chamber in its unsolicited letter to the PCAOB.