Barnier: we’re not blocking US watchdog

EC internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier

EC internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier

Europe’s internal markets chief has denied blocking US inspections of foreign
audit firms and said he is engaged in “constructive dialogue” to resolve an
impasse over trans-Atlantic information sharing.

European Commission int­ernal markets commissioner Michel Barnier has
defended the EU’s stance on information sharing which has stopped the US audit
watchdog, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), from inspecting
accounting firms registered in Europe. He reiterated Europe’s call for
“reciprocal access to confidential information” which is at the heart of the
dispute and threatens to hobble US investigation into the audit of Lehman

Barnier declined to comment on the Lehman investigation, but said the “EU is
not blocking” the PCAOB. He said the issue was raised with US authorities in
February 2009. “Both parties are working closely together in order to find a
pragmatic and workable long-term solution,” he said.

US law prohibits the PCAOB from sharing confidential internal documents with
foreign regulators. However, in all other respects the body said it is willing
to help foreign inspections and has welcomed non-US regulators, stating it will
aid them “to the extent of our authority”.

EU regulators said they need access to the PCAOB’s confidential documents to
conduct investigations. Reform is underway in the US to free access to these
papers as part of the US financial reform bill, but changes are not expected to
take effect until August.

The PCAOB has neither con­firmed nor denied whether it is investigating Ernst
& Young’s audit of Lehmans, brought into question following the release of a
court appointed examiner Anton Valukas’ damaging report. E&Y have denied the

Further reading:

audits beyond reach of US regulators

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