Hitting the ground running

Due this month alone are government reports on the state of UK financial reporting, regulation and the role of non-executive directors.

And as if that isn’t enough to contend with, accountants all around Europe are lobbying heavily against extraterritorial powers enshrined in the now infamous Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

As Accountancy Age went to press on Tuesday night, ICAEW president Peter Wyman was flying out to the US to begin a series of intense negotiations with leading officials at the SEC and the Senate banking committee. If Wyman can convince the committee, which wields considerable influence over Congress, UK companies might get a three-year moratorium from the Act’s provisions.

Tuesday also marked the government’s deadline for submission of comments to the review of the UK’s Accountancy Foundation, the UK’s first independent regulator. This review was always on the cards but it was brought forward by three years due to the spate of corporate fraud and accounting scandals in the US.

Wyman, together with other leading European accountants, is staging a last-ditch attempt over the next few weeks to persuade the SEC to exempt non-US companies and their auditors from the tough new rules on auditor independence. This has to be a swift, concerted attack as the SEC is due to finalise the rules on 26 January.

And although the government, led by trade secretary Patricia Hewitt, has been particularly outspoken on this matter, there is no news forthcoming of a visit by Hewitt to Capitol Hill.

There may not be many people outside of the accounting industry with a good word to say about it at the moment, but one charge that cannot be levelled at accountants is that they have been negligent in their response to concerns raised by the accounting scandals that hit the US last year.

  • Michelle Perry, features editor at Accountancy Age

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