Deloitte has taken another enforcement hit from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, this time for independence violations at an affiliate in the Netherlands.
The PCAOB censured Deloitte Accountants B.V. and fined the firm $300,000 for auditing financial statements for two entities in which the CEO’s wife held shares through a family foundation trust. The PCAOB says the firm audited financial statements for Reed Elsevier and RBS Holdings in 2011 and 2012, failing to notice that the CEO’s wife’s family trust, of which she was a board member, held shares in both companies.
The PCAOB disciplinary order says the firm lacked adequate policies and procedures that would provide reasonable assurance that individuals who ascended to leadership positions in the firm did not have financial interests that would violate independence rules. The firm failed to check on the financial interests of five such individuals from 2009 to 2012, which enabled the conflicts on the RBS and Reed audits to slip through unnoticed, the board says.
In a statement Deloitte Netherlands said the facts in the enforcement order date back to 2012 and before. “The issue involves investments held by the spouse of a tax partner who became CEO,” the firm said through a spokesman. “The partner stepped down as CEO immediately when these issues became known. Since that time, Deloitte Netherlands has made substantial improvements to its quality control system in order to provide assurance that the firm is meeting all required independence standards.”
A week earlier, the PCAOB issued two additional enforcement orders against Deloitte affiliates in Brazil and in Mexico. The board fined Deloitte’s Brazil affiliate $8 million for issuing false audit reports and then altering audit documents and providing false testimony in an attempt to cover it up. The action involved sanctions against more than a dozen former partners and other audit personnel, including members of the firm’s leadership.
In Mexico, the PCAOB says the Deloitte affiliate failed to properly archive audit documentation for numerous public company audits, leading to a $750,000 penalty. The board also disciplined two former partners and a former auditor of the firm for violations that included audit deficiencies and work paper alterations.
PCAOB Chairman James Doty said he and the enforcement staff at the PCAOB do not regard the cases brought in Brazil or Mexico to be anomalies in terms of the type of audit work being performed at some firms. “We have viewed this to be an ongoing problem — not one that is sporadic, but a phenomenon of global audit,” he said.