RegulationAccounting StandardsMore regulation expected in the wake of economic crisis

More regulation expected in the wake of economic crisis

The crisis is expected to increase scrutiny of accountancy firms

The global economic crisis will result in more regulation of accountants and
slow moves towards global accounting standards, experts have predicted.

As the banking crisis deepened this week academics said the economic fallout
could have far-reaching implications for the profession.

Some pointed to parallels with previous economic crises and corporate
scandals when governments pushed though regulation of the accountancy profession
in an effort to restore order.

But, on a brighter note, experts said the current economic crisis was
unlikely to trigger a wave of
litigation against auditors of collapsed firms.

Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at Essex Business School, said: ‘I expect
accounting and auditing standard setting to be much more politicised and subject
to greater intervention by state bodies.

‘When the dust settles down there is likely to be a closer scrutiny of
auditors as many distressed and failed banks received clean audit opinions. Some
collapsed within days of receiving unqualified
audit reports.’

Sikka, a vocal critic of the profession, also predicted that the
Financial Reporting
Council
, one of the City’s top regulators, could be forced to monitor audit
firms more closely or risk being replaced by a
new body.

He said audit firms could come under pressure to provide more information
about their relationship with clients and directors and move to ‘real time’
audits, in which they scrutinise accounts of large clients daily rather than
annually.

Many of today’s accountancy institutes and regulatory bodies were set up in
response to economic crises and corporate scandals. The
ICAEW
was formed in 1853 after the widows and orphans scandals of the railway boom.

The UK’s secondary banking crisis of the mid-1970s helped usher in a new tier
of regulatory bodies for the accountancy profession, including the Joint
Disciplinary Scheme in 1979.

In the US, the Securities and
Exchange Commission
(SEC) was founded in 1934 to help restore market
confidence and protect investors after the Great Depression.

Some experts said the accountancy profession was already highly regulated,
making further regul-ation less likely. ‘The profession is much more regulated
than doctors or lawyers,’ said Stella Fearnley, professor in accounting at
Bournemouth University.

Sunil Poshakwale, professor of international finance at Cranfield School of
Management, said the economic crisis had exposed shortcomings in the training
accounting firms and institutes give their employees and members. ‘The
accounting profession has been lagging somewhat in catching up with the pace of
change in investment banking. They need to go back to the drawing board for
training.’

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