Auditor Liability in Market Meltdown?

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Really? No one? Because phony valuations of assets and failure to report the true financial conditions related to mortgage-related assets sounds like “cahoots” to me! Daugherty opines that the auditing firms will be questioned about valuations, but that they’ll win. Damien Blenkinsopp, associate director for Kennedy Information and a consultant to the Big 4, also told Compliance Week that the auditing firms think they’ll win.

Something tells me that this is more about giving the public the perception that they’re right by saying they think they’re right. Keep telling them often enough that the auditors have no blame, and eventually people may believe it.

Gaylen Hansen, a partner with the Colorado auditing firm Erhardt, Keefe, Steiner & Hottman, and a member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s Standing Advisory Group seems to agree with me. She told Compliance Week that people may have been expecting earlier warnings about problems at the banks and investment firms.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) has already settled one audit malpractice claim related to AIG, paying $97.5 million to three Ohio pension funds. But they’re not alone. All of the Big 4 had their stamps of approval on audits of now defunct companies, and they shouldn’t be too cocky about their chances of avoiding big malpractice claims.

The profession of auditing is likely going to change, and soon. Whether the big auditing firms change by choice, or are forced to change, is really up to them. I’ll be watching from the sidelines.

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