Audit Deficiencies – What’s The Effect – Not Often Openly Discussed – An Elephant In The Room?

If you tune into PCAOB developments you are probably aware that the PCAOB publishes some of the results of its investigations of auditing firm audits of public companies. The PCAOB looks at auditor compliance with auditing standards, rules and regulations. Frequent areas in which significant deficiencies occur have included, for example:

  • Auditing internal control over financial reporting (ICFR)
  • Assessing and responding to risks of material misstatement
  • Auditing accounting estimates, including fair value measurements
  • In cross-border audits, deficient “referred” work — work performed by other audit firms and used by the signing audit firm

This raises a question – if an auditor improperly or insufficiently audits an important issue or area, is the audit still valid, or is it simply invalid, or does additional auditing work then need to be done after the fact? The issue is one of cause and effect. The two areas first listed above, auditing internal control over financial reporting, and assessing and responding to risks of material misstatement, both go to the core of the audit, the audit planning, and how the audit is performed. We don’t want to jump to conclusions, and I am sure that each audit and each situation must be looked at independently, but it is not hard to envision an argument that the audit might be invalid or that additional work now needs to be done after the fact to ensure that the audit is sufficient. If I’m on an audit committee – audit insufficiency and what to do about it make my job unnecessarily more difficult – in other words, I’m not happy with my auditor.

Enjoy. Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco)

Guest Post: Access to Internal Investigation Records by Shareholders | The D&O Diary

Mary Gill Courtney Quirós In many instances when allegations of wrongdoing surface at a company, the appropriate course for the company’s board will be to

Click on the following link for the article: www.dandodiary.com

Dave Tate, Esq. comment: A good discussion. Additionally, in any internal investigation, officers, directors, audit committee members and others need to keep in mind that the investigation might be ordered produced or there might be a decision to voluntarily produce the results (which most likely would also put at issue the background information). The fact that there was an investigation, if properly performed, tends to show diligence and business judgment, both of which are required by directors.

Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California, business, real estate, D&O, trust/estate, elder abuse, injury, and professional liability litigation, http://directorofficernews.com and http://californiaestatetrust.com

Fraud: Is Your Nonprofit Ripe for the Picking?

Fraud has always been a concern for nonprofit organizations, and it’s not going away. A recent Association of Certified Fraud Examiners report shows the median loss is more than $100,000.

Click on the following link for the article: armaninollp.com

Dave Tate’s Comments. Internal controls and the potential for fraud are very real issues for nonprofits, their management and officers, and their boards. If you are a nonprofit board member you cannot simply assume that internal controls, the accounting function, and the external audit, review or compilation are taking care of everything. Are these issues that the board has on its agenda, and that the board discusses and evaluates? Have you requested that these issues be put on the agenda? You should.

Dave Tate, Esq. and licensed CPA (inactive) in California.

Blogs: http://directorofficernews.com and http://californiaestatetrust.com

See also Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide, which you can find at http://directorofficernews.com

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide Sept. 2, 2015 Updated (139 pages)

The following link is to my Audit Committee Guide, updated September 2, 2015, to include additional internal audit materials and links, 139 pages in total. Please read and pass this material to anyone who would be interested, Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide 09022015

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco/California)
Blog, D&O, Audit Committee, Risk Management and Compliance: http://directorofficernews.com
Blog, Trust, Estate, Conservatorship & Elder Abuse Litigation: http://californiaestatetrust.com

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide – Completed Initial Edition – 115 Pages Plus Additional Links

Click on the link at the bottom of this post for a pdf of the completed initial edition of Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide 08042015. The guide is for boards and audit committees of public companies, private companies, nonprofits, and governmental entities. This edition of the guide is 115 pages, plus links to additional resources and materials. The guide is updated regularly as new developments occur, and developments will also be posted to this blog. Please do tell other people about the guide and pass it along. Enjoy, and best to you.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco/California)
Click on the following link for the guide: Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide 08042015

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide, Plus Prior 2007 CEB Audit Committee Chapter

For audit committee members and directors, I have attached three links below, the first for my 2007 audit committee chapter for the California Continuing Education of the Bar, the second for the new audit committee guide that is a work in progress but already contains substantial materials, and the third to the cover and table of contents to Accounting and Its Legal Implications.

Using my blog posts, the 2007 audit committee chapter (which is now unpublished, CEB subsequently cancelled the entire Director and Officer binder), and the new audit committee guide you should get a good feel for new developments and guidance about audit committee member functions and responsibilities.

I also ask that you tell other people about this blog and the new audit committee guide.

1. Here is a link to my 2007 audit committee chapter for the California Continuing Education of the Bar (the chapter and the entire D&O publication has been cancelled for some time), CLICK HERE

2. The following is a link to the new audit committee guide which contains substantial materials although it is a work in progress, Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (July 31, 2015 version), Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide 07312015 CLICK HERE

3. Cover and Table of Contents from Accounting and Its Legal Implications – I expect to scan and post this entire material shortly – although some is outdated, it is still a good read – originally published by Business One/Irwin Publishing, CLICK HERE

Thank you. Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco / California).

SEC Issues Concept Release – Audit Committee Disclosures About The External Auditor

This is my third new post about new proposed audit committee duties and responsibilities relating to the evaluation and retention of the external auditor, and the audit committee’s evaluation of the external auditor’s qualifications. It looks like these changes, or some of them, will occur. And they will be game changers.

Audit committee members will have more specific required duties in these areas, and audit committees and external auditors will be even more under the spotlight. These changes would require more specific audit committee oversight of the external auditor, they will change the relationship between the audit committee and the external auditor, and they may force the external auditor to perform better audits, and to provide better services (I say “force” but in fact this also creates good opportunities for auditors who embrace the changes and want to highlight the quality and extent of their services).

Here is a link to the SEC website page, and the following link is to the SEC Concept Release: SEC Concept Release on Audit Committee Disclosures About External Auditor.  Enjoy.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco / California)

PCAOB Issues Concept Release On Audit Quality Indicators – Important For Audit Committees And External Auditors

The PCAOB has released a concept release on audit quality indicators. You can find the release HERE, and the relevant PCAOB page HERE. These will be important for audit committees, external auditors, and other people.

As the PCAOB states:

“The indicators are a potential portfolio of quantitative measures that may provide new insights about how to evaluate the quality of audits and how high quality audits are achieved. Taken together with qualitative context, the indicators may inform discussions among those concerned with the financial reporting and auditing process, for example among audit committees and audit firms. Enhanced discussions, in turn, may strengthen audit planning, execution, and communication. Use of the indicators may also stimulate competition among audit firms focused on the quality of the firms’ work and, thereby, increase audit quality overall. Issues raised by the release include: (i) the nature of the potential indicators, (ii) the usefulness of particular indicators described in the release, (iii) suggestions for other indicators, (iv) potential users of the indicators, and (v) an approach to implementation over time of an audit quality indicator project.”

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco / California)

What Really Matters For Audit Committee Member Actions – Considering Updating & Publishing My Audit Committee Guide

I have been considering updating and publishing again my audit committee guide. The most recent publication was as a new chapter to the 2007 California Continuing Education of the Bar publication Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers, which was an excellent publication with 17 chapters on the various topics. Unfortunately for whatever reason the sales were not sufficient and CEB later discontinued the publication. I have attached a copy of my initial 2007 chapter HERE.

A lot has changed from 2007 to now. And the materials that I cover in my blog have also changed considerably. But as I have been considering a possible update and the table of contents it strikes me how much of the material consists of lists of qualifications, issues and topic areas that an audit committee and its member are required to consider. And the list is growing as we speak. Considerable detail is being added as to how an audit committee member should evaluate the sufficiency of the external auditor – in other words, a deliberate evaluation where perhaps before in many cases there might not have been any significant evaluation. This will also change how the external auditor goes about performing the audit, the value that the external auditor might provide to helping the audit committee member perform his or her oversight duties, and somewhat the relationship between the audit committee members and the external auditor. On the whole I believe the change is good. But I have also written for some time that I have concern about the long list of issues and topic areas that an audit committee member is required to consider, and that all audit committee members really do need to understand what their duties are, including what is in the audit committee charter (e.g., if the charter says “risk management” that description is simply too broad – risk management of what?).

It strikes me, however, that at the end of the day, the performance of an audit committee member’s oversight responsibilities requires:

Audit committee member understanding and competency;

Agenda;

Timely and active diligence;

Putting in the time;

Reasonable reliance on competent other people (the CEO, the CFO, internal audit if there is one, the external auditor, culture, reputation and tone at the top, the accounting and financial reporting functions and professionals, legal counsel and others);

Sufficiency of information;

Deliberative decision making; and

Anticipation and thinking ahead.

In other words, we are primarily talking about the business judgment rule.

I’m not sure that I will put in the time to update the audit committee guide. If I had a crystal ball that decision would be easy – if the guide will be read and used by enough people, or if I could find a law firm that is interested in these topics, then it is worthwhile. If I do the update, most likely I will post the updated materials in blog posts and then add to the materials as they progress. That will get the materials out considerably earlier. I doubt that I will use a publisher – in addition to many published articles I have previously formally published two audit committee related materials. The process takes longer than I prefer. And, on my blog the materials also will be free and available to everyone.

Those are my thoughts this July 3, 2015, morning. More to follow on this.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco / California)

New Audit Committee Standard of Care – External Auditor Assessment Tool From NACD, NYSE Governance Services, Center for Audit Quality, and Others

Several influential organizations have issued External Auditor Assessment Tool, A Reference for Audit Committees Worldwide. Here is a link to a PDF of the Tool auditor_assessment_tool_worldwide.

The tool is presented by the NACD, NYSE Governance Services, the Center for Audit Quality, the Independent Directors Council, the Association of Audit Committee Members, and Tapestry Networks. And that is why, i.e., because of the stature of the presenting organizations, this document has or will present a standard of care, i.e., a standard in the relevant community, for audit committees on the topics that the tool covers.

Every audit committee member of a public company needs to read, digest and understand this document (it’s not very long – basically 10 pages in length and large type font). On its face the document provides sample questions and issues for audit committees to discuss and consider when assessing their organization’s external auditor. But the document provides more – as you analyze the questions and issues, they present sample questions and issues that the external auditor needs to have satisfied and that the audit committee needs to oversee.

Consider for example the following sample questions:

1. Did the lead audit partner discuss the audit plan and how it addressed company/sector-specific areas of accounting and audit risk (including fraud risk) with the audit committee?  Well . . . did this occur and in what detail?

2.  During the audit, did the auditor meet the agreed-upon performance criteria as reflected in the engagement letter and audit plan?  So . . . did the audit satisfy for example the applicable Statements on Auditing Standards?

3.  In private sessions, did the auditor discuss sensitive issues candidly and professionally?

4.  Did the auditor adequately discuss the quality of the company’s financial reporting, including the reasonableness of accounting estimates and Judgments?

5.  Were there any significant differences in views between management and the auditor?

6. Is the external auditor responsive and communicative (e.g., by soliciting input relative to business risks or issues that might impact the audit plan, identifying and resolving issues in a timely fashion, and adapting to changing risks quickly)?

7. Does the external auditor proactively identify opportunities and risks (e.g., by anticipating and providing insights and approaches for potential business issues, bringing appropriate expertise to bear, and by identifying meaningful alternatives and discussing their impacts)?

And the suggested questions and issues continue.

Although many of these suggested questions and issues already are covered in various Statements on Auditing Standards, how often do you hear Statements on Auditing Standards discussed in the context of audit committee responsibilities? They have been in my published materials for years (including for example, many audit committee guideline and evaluation discussion papers; Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, Chapter 5A for the California Continuing Education of the Bar publication, Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers (October 2007); and Accounting and Its Legal Implications, A Guide for Managers, Business Owners, and Entrepreneurs (Irwin Professional Publishing, Business One 1994).

This audit committee assessment tool, presented by high-stature organizations, puts the spotlight on the topics that the document discusses.  Some people will think this is good, and some will think it is bad. Some people will believe that the document goes too far, and other people will identify the many questions and issues that it does not cover. Nevertheless, most of these questions and issues have already existed for years.

Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco/California), http://directorofficernews.com