CAQ calls for ESG standards and frameworks – my view: start small and reasonably certain, but just get started now, and then move forward from there . . . .

David W. Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California –

I have written about ESG in prior posts. The Center for Audit Quality has now also called for the development of standards and frameworks that present ESG, and, presumably will allow (and lead to?) the auditing of ESG.

In one form or another ESG and concepts similar or relating to ESG have been discussed for years – for how many years, I don’t know, maybe 10, or 20, or 30 years in one form or another.

And it is entirely possible that these concepts will be discussed but will remain in some form of limbo for another 5 to 10 years, or longer. Or, ESG, including the auditing of ESG can start essentially immediately.

Standards exist already.

When you are looking at auditing or an audit you naturally can get into discussions about numbers or amounts that are presented on the financial statements, or notes to the financial statements, or management’s discussion and analysis, and for public companies (of which size?), private businesses (of which status and size – family owned, pre-IPO, small, mid-, or large, or simply regular closely held, etc.), nonprofits, and governmental entities, etc. As the CAQ mentions, you can also get into jurisdictional scope issues, such as statewide, countrywide, or worldwide, etc., standards.

In concept, anything and everything can be discussed, disclosed, and audited. Here’s my recommendation: start small and reasonably certain, but just get started now, and then move forward from there . . . .

I view this from an “A,” “B,” “C” approach (similar to how I view evidence in a case). “A” – this is what you already have in hand. “B” – this is what you reasonably believe exists, and that you reasonably believe you can obtain from a specifically identifiable source, but that you do not now have. “C” – this is essentially uncertain or speculative – it might well exist or should exist but don’t count on getting it.

For ESG, start with standards that exist that generally are recognized by the most influential stakeholders or authorities within a jurisdictional location whether it be local, statewide, countrywide or worldwide. Currently you might only have 8-10 “A” generally recognized standards for “E” environmental, 6-7 “A” standards for “S” social, and 3-4 “A” standards for “G” governance – and that’s fine. ESG will be developing and changing for the next 100+ years. The point is to get going with this, now, and it is possible to do so.

The following is a partial snapshot from the CAQ online discussion.

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California) –

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. 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 post. 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. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.


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Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

      • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

      • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
      • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
      • M&A disputes.
      • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
      • Buy-sell disputes.
      • Funding and share dilution disputes.
      • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
      • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
      • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
      • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

      • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
      • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Conflict Resolution

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Auditor Inclusion of Critical Audit Matters in Audit Opinion – Center for Audit Quality Release to Help Understanding

You might be aware that external auditors are required to include a discussion of critical audit matters in their audit opinion reports for large accelerated filers for audits of fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019, and for other public companies for audits of fiscal years ending on or after December 31, 2020. I expect that CAMs will in some instances present or cause contentions between the external auditor on the one hand, and the audit committee, board, and executive officers on the other hand.

A Critical Audit Matter or CAM is defined as:

Any matter arising from the audit of the financial statements that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee: and that:

  1. Relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements; and
  2. Involved especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment.

Thus, based on the above definition, simply determining whether a matter is a CAM could be a challenging issue.

For example, in any given audit situation consider:

-What matters were communicated, or were required to be communicated to the audit committee;

-Relating to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements; and

-Involved especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment?

I will be discussing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the confusing as this upcoming new area of audit opinion report continues to develop. Auditors and audit committees will need to carefully evaluate what to communicate and what is required to be communicated, materiality (qualitative and quantitative), and whether a matter involves especially challenging, subjective, or complex audit judgment.

For additional help with these issues, the following is a link to a June 24, 2018, release by the Center for Audit Quality entitled Critical Audit Matters: Key Concepts and FAQs for Audit Committees, Investors, and other Users of Financial Statements – click on the following link

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and California inactive CPA)





Audit Committee of the Future – From the CAQ

Below is a link to a paper by the Center for Audit Quality entitled The Audit Committee of the Future. Although the discussion paper is a disappointment (too basic, and lack of meaningful insight) as the CAQ usually has worthwhile materials, in the list of five ways to enhance the audit committee, I thought that one of the five ways is worth noting for its subject matter (but again, not for the discussion insight). The following is the discussion about fostering robust communication and engagement:

“Fostering robust communication and engagement: In addition to enhancing communication with investors and other parties via disclosure, panelists agreed that audit committees need to focus strongly on developing healthy channels of internal communication. “That’s an important skill set for the chairman of the audit committee,” said one, “how to make sure you’re having those periodic meetings outside the boardroom with the auditor, with the internal auditor, with the CFO, with the controller.” Of course, the onus on fostering communication does not fall on the audit committee chair alone. “It’s important to have all parties around the table fully engaged,” said one participant. Others emphasized the need for external auditors to engage in dialogue, particularly if a sense emerges that the audit committee is not asking the right questions. “You need an audit firm to speak up,” said a panelist.”

Obviously the above comments can be expanded upon greatly, including, for example, discussions about agenda setting, risk management and internal controls, critical decision making processes, investigations, and follow up.

Here is a link to the CAQ paper

Click to access caq_insights_audit_committee_future.pdf

And the following is a link to Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide, updated January 2016. Enjoy. CLICK HERE FOR THE POST CONTAINING A LINK TO THE AUDIT COMMITTEE GUIDE

Best, Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California,

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Defense 02132016 David W. Tate, Esq.