audit failure

Disciplinary actions from California Board of Accountancy – Spring 2021.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The California Board of Accountancy Update newsletter, issue #93 dated Summer 2021, has details of disciplinary actions with effective dates in the spring and early summer of 2021.

Interesting thing I noticed this time around is the timing of some of the underlying issues. The attestation failures for which a date is mentioned involve financial statements issued in the 2016 or 2017 timeframe. For one of the more splendiferous failures the firm had audit failures on 2015 and 2016 financial statements which generated a failed peer review with the report dated in early 2018, which led to an investigation by the board with disciplinary action effective in June 2021. That was the firm’s second consecutive peer review fail. Firm earned a $2,500 penalty along with reimbursement of $5,000 investigatory costs.

Every CPA that had an attest failure drew a ban on attestation services until such time as the practitioner requests and receives permission from the board to again perform attest work.

Four of the practitioners who had their license revocation stayed also had a suspension of their license in the range of 60 to 90 days. Imagine the lifetime stain of an official revocation on your public record and then on top of that being prohibited from providing any CPA services for two or three months.

Here is my recap of disciplinary actions reported in this issue:

Disciplinary actions from California Board of Accountancy for late 2020.

….what you do not want to have happen to your license. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Update #92 newsletter from California Board of Accountancy dated winter 2021 lists 14 disciplinary actions summarized below. This tally excludes one listed action which is ending probation for a CPA and another separately listed case for the corporation owned by an individual who is also disciplined.

All these actions are effective at various times during November and December 2020.

My tally of these cases:

Disciplinary actions from California Board of Accountancy for the middle of 2020.

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Update #91 newsletter from the California Board of Accountancy, dated Fall 2020, lists 33 disciplinary actions. The effective dates run from May 2020 through August 2020. Yeah, I’m just getting around to writing about the newsletter that arrived last November.

A few general observations before diving into a summary of the causes and levels of discipline.

Of the 10 stayed revocations for attestation failures, all but one had an attestation ban. General pattern is an audit failure will lead to a ban on attest services. The summary of the case does not give an indication why one CPA didn’t draw a ban.

Usually these are bans from performing any audits, reviews, compilations, or attestation engagements. Some of them were just bans from audits. Pattern seems to be the ban is for the duration of probation and then after that a firm may request permission to again perform attest work.

Imagine if you will, that attest work is a significant portion of your work and you cannot perform any of those for three years.

One big firm listed in this edition is PriceWaterhouseCoopers, who drew a stayed suspension with 18 months probation because of discipline by the SEC. They also earned a $300,000 fine and up to $26,000 reimbursement of costs for investigation and monitoring. An additional consequence is distributing a copy of the order to every employee who is in the state of California.

Of the seven disciplinary actions because of enforcement actions by federal agencies, six are from the SEC and one from PCAOB.

The attestation failures usually include three or four or more specific violations. For example, the actions may because there was not appropriate documentation, the opinion was not supported by workpapers, and there were violations of GAAS and violations of GAAP.  Those are overlapping issues but a major audit failure will likely cause a violation in all of those areas. Of grim note for two of the attest failures is one of the listed charges includes creating documentation after release of the audit report. You can make your guess as to what an allegation of that nature includes but could have been creating documentation after workpapers had been called in for review.

Here is a tally of the 33 cases:

Disciplinary actions by California Board of Accountancy in first half of 2019.

That view is enough to make you cringe. Sort of like some of the situations recently addressed by the Board of Accountancy. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Update newsletter issue 89 for Fall 2019 has 33 disciplinary actions listed. Timeframe of the effective dates is the first half of 2019.  My recap of actions by the California Board of Accountancy is listed below. I counted as one action those situations involving a firm and the owner of the firm.


audit fail other issue
1 3 felony
1 1 didn’t complete contracted service
1 audit fail
1 audit fail and no peer review
1 no peer review & expired license
2 probation violations
1 some deeper issues, not quite apparent from summary
4 8 total revocations


Of the CPAs with felony issues, two were for embezzlement, one also had an audit failure, and another ended up with conviction on 12 counts.

Two of the revocations were for rather extensive violations of a previous disciplinary action.

Revocations stayed

SEC practice ban for three accountants tangled up in KPMG/PCAOB fiasco.

Securities and Exchange Commission Building, Washington, DC.

Going Concern is doing a great job keeping us all updated on the status of the current felons / former KPMG and PCAOB staff tangled up in the inspection list theft fiasco.

Several tidbits from Jason Bramwell on 1/16/20 I just noticed:  SEC Takes Away Privileges From Another Felon In KPMG/PCAOB Scandal.

Staff who have been banned by the SEC from practicing before the Commission:

Last person in KPMG inspection leak fiasco enters guilty plea

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The last person to face justice in KPMG’s fiasco of gaining illegal access to PCAOB inspection lists entered a guilty plea a few weeks before his scheduled trial.

David Britt entered a guilty plea on 10/3/19 to one count conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His trial would have otherwise started on 10/21/19.

Sentencing is scheduled for 5/8/20.

Second sentencing in KPMG fiasco of getting list of PCAOB inspection list.

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The most senior level former partner charged in the KPMG “steal the exam” fiasco was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for his role in the leak of PCAOB inspection targets. David Middendorf received a fraction of the 37-46 months requested by US Attorney office and 46-57 months recommended by the United States Probation Office.

Some articles to provide lots more info:

Wall Street Journal – Jean Eaglesham – 9-11-19 – Ex-KPMG Partner Sentenced to a Year and a Day in ‘Steal the Exam’ Scandal

Crain’s New York Business – Aaron Elstein – 9/11/19 – Former top KPMG partner gets a year and a day in prison – Article points out the sentence of a year plus one day means Mr. Middendorf is eligible for good behavior credit.

More details on first sentencing in KPMG/PCAOB fiasco as second sentencing is expected today.

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The second sentencing in the fiasco of leaking PCAOB’s inspection list to KPMG is set for 10:30 today, 9/11/19.

Background on Mr. Middendorf sentencing

David Middendorf will face federal judge J. Paul Oetken to learn how long he will be in federal housing. Judge Oetken is handling all of the trials in this case.

On 7/26/19 Mr. Middendorf submitted his arguments on sentencing (docket #379). If you have lots of time on your hand, you can also read the 25 attachments.

The US Attorney filing had this comment (#394), which I’ll quote:

Comments from recent continuing education classes worth repeating: peer review

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Here are some fun or interesting or useful tidbits from the October 2018 A&A and the June 2019 Not-for-profit conferences presented by California Society of CPAs.

Previous post had comments on accounting and auditing.

Peer review

One speaker said there are several common issues for weaknesses in risk assessment:

  • Limited assessment
  • No linkage (relating the assessment of risks to further audit procedures)
  • Poor use of third-party practice tools
  • No assessment of IT risks

Not doing any risk assessment is now a major problem for you in a peer review if you missed the boat on the risk suite of standards.

For Yellow Book audit, the workpapers must document SKE (skills, knowledge, experience) of staff overseeing non-attest services.  Although the professional standards do not exactly require documentation of SKE for non-attest service on a non-yellow book audit, the speaker said (if I heard correctly) that the California Peer Review Committee has a considered opinion that such documentation is required.

So, if you have non-attest services on a non-yellow book audit, …

Two articles provide more info on SEC sanctions against KPMG for ‘stealing the exam’ and CPE course cheating fiascos.

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For more discussion on the dual fiascos of the now-former-senior KPMG partners getting the PCAOB inspection list and altering workpapers along with cheating on continuing education classes, check out these two articles:


Francine McKenna at MarketWatch on 6/18/19 The KPMG cheating scanal was much more widespread that originally thought.

Article provides a good summary of the settlement.

Try this on for a word picture, which I’m expanding from Francine’s description in the article:

Getting a $50M fine from stealing the inspection list (and then altering workpapers) is the powerful right punch that everyone was expecting. The test cheating part is a staggering left hook that nobody saw coming.

Disciplinary actions from California Board of Accountancy through the end of 2018.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Update #88 newsletter from California Board of Accountancy for Winter 2019 lists 22 disciplinary actions, by my count. These are the actions taken with effective dates through the end of 2018.

Here is a tally of license revocations, surrendered licenses, and revocations with stay categorized by the underlying issue as I aggregate them:

KPMG agrees to $50 million fine from SEC. The details are really bad.

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Oh, remember that post about the SEC considering a $50M fine against KPMG?  Initial report suggested it was for gaining access to the list of engagements which were going to be inspected by PCAOB.

It is much worse.

The firm is fined for altering workpapers based on the inspection list. In addition, there was a lot of cheating on the tests for CPE courses, including a class required by the SEC.

The SEC says KPMG has agreed to settle and pay $50M.

If you want to read the gory details for yourself, you can do so:

This is for real. Seriously.

By the time you finish reading this post or other reports on the SEC’s action, you may be wondering whether there needs to be an assertion the source of information for this post was neither The Onion nor Babylon Bee.

Reports of setting your own passing score for an ethics test could make you wonder if it is very early April. “Cooperate and graduate” exchanges of test answers with the engagement partner and your audit team makes one wonder whether we have entered some sort of alternate reality.

You may want to glance at the linked documents and verify for yourself they are for real.

I assure you the above documents are from the website.

SEC action

In part II of the administrative action/cease & desist order, KPMG admits the facts described in part III.

Here are some highlights of part III.

First cause of action

The first cause of action by the SEC is the firm obtained the list of engagements which were going to be inspected by PCAOB and then altered workpapers which had not yet hit the lock-down date.