Restoring Trust in Audit – A Long Way to Go Yet

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) have recently published a “Position Paper” entitled Restoring Trust in Audit and Corporate Governance. It sets out how the FRC will be supporting the Government’s reforms under the new ARGA regime.

This is not a very exciting document as it’s very short on specifics. For example under Corporate Governance and Stewardship is says “including a provision for boards to consider how audit tendering undertaken by the company takes account of the need to expand market diversity…”. What exactly does that mean?

However it does say that the Government intends to put Actuarial Regulation on a statutory footing which is long overdue and the intention is to put ARGA on a new funding basis with market participants paying a levy to meet its regulatory function costs. So perhaps auditors should read this Position Paper carefully.

The Position Paper can be obtained from here: https://www.frc.org.uk/news/july-2022/frc-sets-out-next-steps-in-transition-to-new-regul

There might have been more information provided in a webinar on the 14th August but I missed it for two reasons: 1) they sent the login information but it ended up in a spam folder on my BT server; and 2) They sent it as a Teams invite but even though I chose the web browser option it blocked me with an incomprehensible error message. Is it just me that has endless problems with Teams? I wish people would use other products such as Zoom for webinars which I never have problems with.

Incidentally the latest example of the failures of the audit profession was an announcement by the FRC of sanctions against UHY Hacker Young LLP and their audit partner in relation to Laura Ashley Holdings.

To quote: “LAH’s shares were listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. As at 30 June 2019, the Group had 155 UK stores, employing over 2,700 people. The Group’s revenue, operating profit, profit before tax and profit after tax consistently declined between FY2016 and FY2019, and the Group’s loss after tax increased ten-fold from £1.4m in FY2018 to £14m in FY2019. Against this backdrop, the audit reports for FY2018 and FY2019 were unmodified and noted no material uncertainty related to the use of the going concern assumption”. Laura Ashley went into administration in April 2020.

The fine imposed by the FRC was only £217,500, a trivial amount!

See https://www.frc.org.uk/news/july-2022/sanctions-against-uhy-hacker-young-llp-and-martin for details.

There is certainly a long way to go to restore trust in the audit profession after a whole series of failures in the last few years.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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2 thoughts on “Restoring Trust in Audit – A Long Way to Go Yet”

  1. Dear Roger,

    Two things:-

    Yes, Teams is always more problematic than Zoom.

    More importantly regarding accountants (and this new radical, “reduce regulation” list of Prime Ministerial candidates) the best solution is to abolish audited accounts for quoted companies and force them to publish their management accounts and commentary every month. That way investors, analysts, journalists and remaining regulators would get a much clearer picture in a way that cannot be subject to semi annual window dressing.

    Best wishes

    David Potter

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