While the U.S. and the European Union continue to wrestle over the necessity for foreign firms to register with the new U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Canada continues to push for exemption, claiming it should be "at the top of the list."
Canadian auditing standards most closely mirror those of the United States, and there has been a culture of reciprocity for years between the two nations, argues Gordon Thiessen, chairman of the Canadian Public Accountability Board.
At a recent meeting in Washington with the members of the PCAOB, Mr. Thiessen was firm yet cordial on the subject. "I'm not saying that we should just say 'you've got no business even looking at Canadian auditors,'" he said. "But we're setting up an oversight process in Canada, which we think is going to be rigorous, and we'd like to discuss some memorandum of understanding that would allow mutual recognition."
New accounting rules are about to be released in Canada providing guidelines on who can sit on audit committees, and requiring executives to sign off on financial statements. "The rules are as robust as Sarbanes-Oxley, but address unique Canadian concerns," Ontario Securities Commission chairman David Brown said in a speech last week to the national press club in Ottawa.
The newly created Canadian Public Accountability Board will follow strict guidelines and will be funded by accounting firms at $4-6 million per year. Dual registration would cause a significant amount of duplication, paperwork and cost.
With over 200 Canadian companies operating in U.S. stock exchanges, Canada believes that registration with the PCAOB would place a huge burden on the fledgling watchdog. The entire European Union has about 275 interlisted companies.