audit failure

Another round of disciplinary actions from California Board of Accountancy

The firms that make up the following list were not traveling on the above highway. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Starting with the newest Update report for Fall 2017 (#85), the California Board of Accountancy has stopped listing the underlying problem leading to disciplinary action. This means it only took 16 pages to list the 44 actions reported currently. It also seems the CBA is listing actions against firms and the practitioner together.

This means the cringe inducing details are not immediately visible, even though the full disciplinary reports are public records and publicly available. I didn’t bother to take the time to research the reports.

I have tallied the current batch of discipline cases. Underlying problem is inferred by me based on the comments in the newsletter. I haven’t looked up any of the cases or looked up the reg sections cited for discipline. So, with those caveats, here are my inferences of the current disciplinary actions:

Common deficiencies in audit engagements

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Let’s look at an eight point list of common deficiencies in audits for a quick check of the quality of our engagements. Often times those lists of common deficiencies run for pages and pages, essentially covering just about every major component of an audit. Those kinds of run-on lists don’t really help.

The AICPA’s Audit Risk Alert – General Accounting and Auditing Developments – 2017/18 provides a usable list of eight most common deficiencies identified in the recent peer reviews. Pondering this list provides a good way to do a self-check of your engagements.

Here is my paraphrase of the eight points:

Incorrect dating of the auditor’s report. The report date needs to match the release date which should be after the date all the documentation has been reviewed, the financial statements been prepared, and management has taken responsibility for the financial statements. The risk alert refers to AU-C 700.41.

Inadequate documentation of sampling methodology. AU-C 530 explains how to perform a sample. The methodology must be documented or the reviewer won’t be able to understand why the audit evidence is sufficient.

Insufficient audit documentation. …

Lots more disciplinary actions from California Board of Accountancy

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

It takes thirty-two pages to describe the current round of disciplinary actions from the California Board of Accountancy in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of the Update newsletter (Issue #84). By my count there are 38 actions, exclude one situation where a firm and the CPA are listed separately.

The overwhelming portion of cases are for CPAs who have an audit or review or compilation failure. Most of those firms also have a peer review problem, either not getting a peer review, failing two consecutive reviews, or getting a very late review.

Just in case you were wondering whether CPAs are regular people with the same, um, foibles as the general population, there were 7 CPAs disciplined for conviction of a crime.

I tallied the results for this edition of Update and came up with these results:

A Halloween costume that would make any CPA pass out from fright – an auditor performing one pension plan audit

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Amid the cute little kids in their funny costumes, this pleasant Halloween night there was a grown man in a suit at the door asking for candy. White shirt, red tie, gray pinstripe.

Not so scary, thought I.

(Tale of this particular night was originally posted on October 31, 2013.)

“What are you dressed up as?”

“An auditor,” came the reply.

That’s not frightening, since I’ve been an auditor for a long time. But it did explain the standard issue uniform.

So, putting on my peer reviewer hat, I asked, “what audit work do you do?”

“Oh, only one pension plan….

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California Board of Accountancy is serious about audit quality and enrollment in peer review.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Winter 2017 Update newsletter (#83) from the California Board of Accountancy shows that the board is continuing its active efforts on disciplinary actions.

There are obviously quite a few of our colleagues who are not performing up to standards.

I’ve heard stories from a distance that the Board has hired more enforcement staff. As I have read the last few issues of Update, it sure seems to me that the increased staffing is showing up in an increased pace of closed cases. Maybe my perception is off, but it seems there are more cases closed with more serious consequences in the last year or so.

I count 39 cases documented in this edition of Update. Only 2 of these have discipline level of suspension or less. All the others are surrenders, revocations, or stayed revocations. Just as a guess, I think that means the editor of Update is filtering out most of the suspensions.

I count 19 cases of those 39 with peer review problems or audit, review, or compilation failures or some combination thereof. I’ll break that down further:

If you have been blowing off Peer Review, you really ought to get with the program.

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Seriously, if you are providing audit, review, or compilation services to your clients, you really need to be in the peer review program. And you really, really need to be doing fairly good work. I doubt any CPAs in California who desperately need to read this post will be doing so, but it is still worth mentioning.

The California Board of Accountancy is coming down hard on CPAs who have avoided the peer review program. Seriously missing the boat on audit quality is getting hammered as well.

Quarterly newsletter

The Spring/Summer 2016 edition of the quarterly Update newsletter from CBA, issue 81, has several reports of firms drawing serious sanctions. There are 21 pages of narrative describing the sanctions through April 24, 2016. Of 28 disciplinary issues, 7 deal with peer review, which are the ones I will highlight.

Audit of Parmalat’s fraud based on faked bank deposit settled by Grant Thornton for $4.4 million

The amount will be $4,400,000. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
The amount will be $4,400,000. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Chicago Business reports on 10/30 that Grant Thornton settles lawsuit for $4.4 million.  Another quick survey:  Reuters – 11/2 – Parmalat settles dispute with Grant Thornton.

If I got it straight, the international consortium of Grant Thornton is writing the check to settle up for the fiasco on the Parmalat audit.

You may vaguely recall that mess.  In two sentences, Parmalat had a fake bank account in the Cayman Islands that supposedly held €3.95B (yes, four billion Euros, that’s 4,000,000,000) which was around half of the consolidated balance sheet of about €8B as of 12/31/03. The auditors in the Italian affiliate (if I recall correctly) of GT sent a confirm to the address the client gave them for the bank in the Caymans which was, of course, intercepted, signed by company staff, and returned to the auditor.

The scheme fell apart and has been rattling around in the legal system for just over a decade, in and out of the US and bouncing between circuits when here.

Why you see so much discussion of quality in pension plan audits

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

For some reason, my article two years ago describing A Halloween costume that would make any CPA pass out from fright – an auditor performing one pension plan audit, has been getting extra visits this week.

Check out the post above. It will be funny for accountants.

The joke is based on how frightening the idea is for an auditor to perform one or two pension audits. The risk is astronomical of doing something seriously wrong. Just as frightening is the idea of an accountant only doing one or two audits.

Yesterday, at the Accounting and Auditing Conference presented by CalCPA, I heard the statistics that made the Department of Labor so upset.

“The dozy watchdogs” – Deep discussion in The Economist on the state of audit profession

Gotta’ love the drawing of a seated Doberman with a wondering look on his face as he stares at a trail of muddy feline paw prints. Staring around helpless are three other dogs. The befuddled watchdog has a tag labeled “PwC” in case you hadn’t yet caught the point.

The previous drawing was of an overfed cat in a three-piece suit helping himself to a bag of cash from a safe as four dogs snoozed in front of the safe. Said dogs have a tag identifying each as a member of the Big 4.

If you are an auditor, you really should get a fresh cup of coffee and check out The Economist’s discussion of The dozy watchdogs. Will let you see what non-accountants think of the profession (not too much) and the job the big firms are doing (not so great).

Yeah, there is a problem

More thoughts on the resurrected Andersen brand. Part 3

Here are a few more articles discussing the acquisition of the Andersen brand name by a tax-only accounting firm. My previous articles here and here.

9/8 – re:The Auditors – More on My Reuters Breakingviews Column: The Andersen Tax Name Grab – Francine McKenna brings in more background and other articles on the return of the Andersen brand.

She even quotes the last part of my previous post which said that if a small portion of the worldwide CFOs think the Andersen name denotes quality then there is huge market for the formerly named WTAS firm.

Why does PCAOB definition of ‘audit failure’ overstate audit failures? Perhaps because saying ‘audits that should have done better which we found after intentionally looking for audits that might have deficiencies’ doesn’t sound as severe.

The PCAOB’s self-created definition of audit failures overstates the severity of issues found during inspection, according to a board member of the PCAOB.

Journal of Accountancy reports on 3/21 a PCAOB member suggesting Stop using “audit failure” term in PCAOB reports, Hanson says.

Mr. Jay Hanson says the definition used by the PCAOB is causing confusion about the severity of issues identified during inspections. Here’s the range of definitions of that phrase:

Casual description of PCAOB usage, according to the article:

Why auditing isn’t like reading a history book

Sometimes it’s weird reading a story about the Civil War. It’s the same when reading about an audit fiasco.

People do the oddest things.

As the first major battle of the war shaped up near Manassas Junction, lots of people rode out from DC in their carriages. They brought along picnic baskets so they could eat as they watched the battle. Would be a fun afternoon outing with the children.

A Halloween costume that would make any CPA pass out from fright – an auditor performing one pension plan audit

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Amid the cute little kids in their funny costumes, this pleasant Halloween night there was a grown man in a suit at the door asking for candy. White shirt, red tie, gray pinstripe.

Not so scary, thought I.

“What are you dressed up as?”

“An auditor,” came the reply.

That’s not frightening, since I’ve been an auditor for a long time. But it did explain the standard issue uniform.

So, putting on my peer reviewer hat, I asked, “what audit work do you do?”

“Oh, only one pension plan….

.

.

To what purpose did Arthur Andersen die? Part 3

First post in this series discussed an editorial in the Chicago Tribune concluding that Big 5 accounting firm Andersen died in vain.

Second post provides background on the large number of audit failures that surrounded Andersen.  The editorial provides background on the poor ethical environment of the firm.

David Albrecht, in his post 10 Years Later – Did Andersen Die in Vain?, has a very different answer to the question.

There was a purpose in the demise of Andersen.  Punishment

To what purpose did Arthur Andersen die? Part 2

Previous post discussed a March 14, 2012 editorial in the Chicago Tribune which ponders what greater cause may have existed behind the 2002 collapse of Big 5 accounting firm Arthur Andersen. The editorial concluded that Andersen died in vain.

Methinks the editorial’s content argues against the editorial’s conclusion.

Let’s look at the pattern of behavior