Chicago-based Grant Thornton added yet another side to the multi-dimensional debate about the reforms needed to restore confidence in the accounting profession.
“As the leading global firm dedicated to the needs of middle market companies,” said CEO Ed Nusbaum in a press release, Grant Thornton feels that “growth should never be at the expense of public trust.” The firm cites a perceived “failure by some in the top management of the accounting firms to set a tone that puts professional responsibilities ahead of all other business considerations.” It proposes to restore the profession’s credibility with a five-point program.
The firm’s five recommendations are:
- The major firms must make it clear through their management and policies that nothing is more important than their professional responsibility. Assurance, advisory and tax services must once again be the business drivers and focus for the auditors of SEC registrants.
- Audit committees must do a better job of protecting shareholder interest, and regulators should take steps to ensure that audit committees are truly independent of management.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission should revise the rules for proxy disclosures of non-audit fees. The current rules are misleading because they combine services that don’t represent a conflict of interest with those that do.
- All standards should be set using a principles-based (rather than rules-based) approach. This applies to audit and independence standards as well as accounting standards.
- AICPA should undertake a program to encourage sharing of best practices among firms in the area of auditing methodology.
Grant Thornton asks that all parties involved in serving the public interest (auditors, directors and regulators) embrace its five point program which is discussed in greater detail in the press release.