Auditors: Market Concentration and their Role
HL 119-I, Second Report of Session 2010-11 - Volume I: Report
- House of Lords - Select Committee on Economic Affairs
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
'Auditors: Market Concentration and their Role (HL 119)' outlines the Economic Affairs Committee's inquiry into auditors which aimed to look into two main issues:
(i) The dominance of the Big Four (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers) and its effects on competition and choice.
(ii) Whether traditional, statutory audit still meets today's needs.
Also the Committee focussed on two other important issues:
(i) The effect on audit of the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
(ii) How banks were audited before and during the financial crisis and what changes there should be, including in auditors' relationships with financial regulators.
The large-firm audit market is clearly an oligopoly with all the attendant concerns about competition, choice, quality and conflict of interest. It gave no warning of the banking crisis. The narrowness of the assurance it offers is much criticised.
Its regulatory structure, in the UK and internationally, is complex and unclear. Yet investors, regulators and commentators regard rigorous and reliable external audit as an essential underpinning of business and the capital markets which finance it, in Britain and elsewhere.
The assurance offered by audit is especially needed in the case of banks, with their attendant risks and where loss of confidence can imperil the financial system.
The Big Four's domination of the large firm audit market in the UK is almost complete: in 2010 they audited 99 of the FTSE 100 largest listed companies, which change auditors every 48 years on average.
In bank audit in the UK there is only a Big Three, since Ernst & Young are not active.
This report highlights the risk that one of the Big Four might leave the audit market, leading to an even greater and wholly unacceptable degree of concentration unless preventive actions are taken.
The Committee makes three main recommendations:
First - a detailed investigation of the large-firm audit market by the Office of Fair Trading, with a view to an inquiry by the Competition Commission so that all the interrelated issues surrounding concentration, competition and choice can be thoroughly examined in depth.
Second - that prudence should be reasserted as the guiding principle of audit.
Third - that the new framework of banking supervision should provide for bank audit to contribute more to the transparency and stability of the financial system.
|Format||Paperback||Published||30 Mar 2011|
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