Institutional and general public investors use Auditor's Reports when calculating their buy, sell or hold decisions. I'm not sure auditor's always remember the numbers of people who examine and trust their comments, sometimes basing their decisions on the unknown but trusted professionals who make independent reports.
Auditor's Reports and comments included therein should be carefully considered and measured, not just from a client viewpoint or to ensure the auditor faces no liability, but rather should include full and fair disclosure of any issues or questions an auditor raised, or should have raised, with a client or clients' Audit Committee. To do less is a disservice to the client and the investing public.
In today's environment consumers are demanding more commonsense honesty and transparency, and woe betide auditors and client companies who don't get up to speed quickly.
When things go awry investors want to know that failures, errors, or mistakes weren't already known about and covered up by company directors. In other words, the public perception is that genuine errors and mistakes are a part of investing risk, but deliberate hiding of errors, or worse, will not be tolerated. Generally the auditor is the last bulwark between the company and the investor; the auditor is the trusted independent who will tell the truth. It will be a bad time for auditors if the perception is that the auditor colluded with a company and cast aside real independence; the Arthur Andersen debacle should have taught everybody that truism.
Eliot Spitzer, and others, are having a field day as they ride the new wave of enlightenment public sentiment into courts and achieve massive cash settlements, often without the need for trials.
In my microcosm I took issue with PWC's Bermuda office for what I feel is their failure to report, or even mention, an acknowledged unwholesome relationship between White Mountains Insurance and Olympus RE even though PWC acts as auditors for both companies. That matter is already with the SEC and Spitzer's office yet PWC prefers to adopt a head-in-the-sand stance.
Times are changing gentlemen; the Internet ushered in a new age of research and document availability. Nowadays everybody can claim expertise on almost any subject.
I can summon up SEC filings, investor reports, court cases, trend reports, and expert advice, all with a few keystrokes and soon I'll have as much information on my screen as the fund manager who moves millions around daily. I make my investment decisions based on the information provided; my stocks may gain, hold steady or lose - that's the investment risk business, but nobody should ever tell me less than the full truth.
This article contributed by Jon Bond.