On May 31, 2019, the PCAOB Staff issued Guidance entitled “Rule 3526(b) Communications with Audit Committees Concerning Independence.” The Guidance is written to help auditors with communications pertaining to the auditor’s independence or lack thereof; however, audit committee members also need to know what to expect and require from the organization’s auditor. The Staff also states that its Guidance might be useful to investors.
The following is a link to the Staff Guidance https://pcaobus.org/Standards/Documents/Staff-Guidance-Rule-3526(b)-Communications-Audit-Committee-Concerning-Independence.pdf, and the following is a link to the Staff Guidance with yellow and green highlights that I added plus two short comments Staff-Guidance-Rule-3526(b)-Communications-Audit-Committee-Concerning-Independence with Tate highlights-2. I added yellow highlights to the auditor’s primary responsibilities, which audit committee members also need to know and understand, and I added green highlights to certain provisions that pertain more to specific audit committee member requirements and matters that may also pertain to SEC or legal considerations.
As you know, the auditor’s independence is a key prerequisite underlying the audit. An audit committee oversees the appropriateness and engagement of the auditor and the performance of the audit. An audit committee member needs to know that the auditor is independent, and needs to know that prior to auditor engagement, during the audit planning, and throughout the audit. As the Guidance indicates, even if the Rule 3526 requirements are satisfied, that does not necessarily mean that the SEC or that the PCAOB or that a reasonable investor with knowledge of all relevant facts and circumstances would conclude that the auditor was capable of exercising objective and impartial judgment on all issues encompassed within the auditor’s engagement. Thus, depending on the circumstances, also consider whether consultation with the SEC or PCAOB is appropriate.
An audit committee member needs to discuss the auditor’s independence with the auditor, evaluate the auditor’s independence, and satisfy herself or himself that the auditor is appropriately independent (consider also, e.g., the business judgment rule). If an audit committee member has any concerns, uncertainties or unknowns, red flags, or doubts about the auditor’s independence, the committee member should consider seeking professional including legal help, advice and representation. Ultimately, the issue is whether under the circumstances it is appropriate to engage the auditor or to continue engaging the auditor, or to engage a new auditor.
Every case and situation is different. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.
Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.
Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.
I am also the new Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.
Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management http://auditcommitteeupdate.com
The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:
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