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’.