PracticeAccounting FirmsE&Y accused of undermining Sarbanes-Oxley

E&Y accused of undermining Sarbanes-Oxley

Ernst & Young has been accused of 'systematically undermining' the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, by advising clients to exploit a loophole in the law, which allows directors to bypass the audit committee by pre-approving non-audit work.

Link: Sarbanes-Oxley special

A group of five US consumer organisations, including the Consumer Action and the Consumer Federation of America, have signed a letter of complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The letter asks SEC chairman William Donaldson to investigate a model pre-approval process as advised by E&Y. The model highlights the possibility in the Sarbanes-Oxley rules to mark non-audit work as a policy issue, which allow directors to pre-approve them.

The group says E&Y’s advice ‘makes a mockery of Congress’ intent to ensure independence of the audit’, and urges SEC to take fast action before other Big Four firms adopt a similar model.

‘Although it may not have realised it at the time, the SEC handed the audit firms a roadmap for evading the audit committee pre-approval requirement. It must now step in to restore its important auditor independence reform,’ the groups wrote.

E&Y’s marketing material reveals that it worked with a team of lawyers to define a model for pre-approval of policies including non-audit work. To see E&Y’s brochure visit: www.bianet.nl/aw/corporatereform.pdf

E&Y said it ‘strongly supports’ both Sarbanes-Oxley and the SEC auditor independence rules. It argues its brochure and pre-approval policy are consistent with ‘their letter and spirit’.

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