Final Big 5 Holdout may Need to Restructure

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Less than three months ago, the Public Accounting Report published an article indicating that Big 5 accounting firm Deloitte & Touche was "bucking the trend" of restructuring and insisted that it would keep its "full service" image available to clients.

However, in an article in the Financial Times this week, Jim Copeland, CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has indicated that increasing pressure from regulators might force the Big 5 firm to consider restructuring, eliminating the ability to offer both consulting services as well as audit work.

"It's possible regulators could make it so difficult for us to be competitive . . . that we had to re-evaluate strategy," he said. "I think that would be a tragedy."

The SEC has been investigating independence issues with other firms who are providing both audit and consulting services.

Deloitte was to have been the lone holdout among the Big 5 in pursuing a structure unaffected by SEC concerns, but reluctantly admits now that an unwanted restructuring may be necessary to be competitive in the future.

The SEC is reviewing its conflict of interest rules but has yet to set a date for announcing the results. "My fear is that the regulators aren't changing as fast as the accountants," Mr Copeland said.

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