Auditors could face grillings from analysts

Auditors might one day stand shoulder to shoulder with clients at analyst
presentations according to the latest suggestions to reform the industry in the
wake of the crisis.

Steve Maslin, chair of the partnership oversight board at Grant Thornton,
envisages an expanded audit role which may involve greater face-to-face time
with stakeholders, including question and answer sessions at annual general

“Many investors believe there is valuable information that gets discussed by
the auditors with management and audit committees to which investors do not have
access – and I think they are right,” he said.

He made the comments to an audience of accountants in London, hosted by ICAS
this morning.

Maslin said another reform could come in the form of an expanded audit
committee report which offers information on internal company judgments and
business uncertainties. He believes this report could be reviewed by an external

“I would go as far as to make such reports a primary statement and include a
specific fairness opinion in the auditor’s report,” he said.

Maslin’s comments come as ICAS releases a research paper which suggests
investors would welcome an expanded audit role.

The paper, by academics from Glasgow Caledonian University and the University
of Stirling, found investors and shareholders often found front-of-the-book
explanations in annual reports “boilerplate” which includes “misleading
management spin”.

The report found there was “significant demand” for some degree of auditor
assurance on annual report’s front end.

Further reading:

FSA criticises auditors’ lack of scepticism

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