tuesday, 4 december of 2012

SEC charges accounting firms´ Chinese arms


Chinese firms

SEC charges accounting firms' Chinese arms

Securities regulators took aim at the Chinese affiliates of big global accounting firms Monday, after a wave of accounting debacles at publicly traded Chinese firms that led to billions of dollars of shareholder losses.

In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission brought an administrative proceeding against five accounting firms, alleging they refused to hand over documents sought in investigations of alleged accounting frauds at nine Chinese companies.

In Canada, the top securities regulator accused Ernst & Young's Canadian affiliate of missing problems during its audit on Sino-Forest Corp., a timber company that filed for bankruptcy protection this year amid questions about its disclosures.

The accounting firm agreed to pay 117 million Canadian dollars ($117.8 million) to settle separate shareholder allegations that it misled Sino-Forest investors. The settlement disclosed Monday was the largest ever by an auditor in Canadian history, a plaintiff's attorney said. Ernst & Young didn't admit wrongdoing in the settlement, which must still be approved by the bankruptcy court.

Dozens of Chinese companies have raised billions of dollars in the past decade listing their shares on U.S. and Canadian exchanges, before their share prices plummeted amid questions about their bookkeeping and disclosures.

The SEC action, if an administrative law judge rules in its favor, could lead to the Big Four's Chinese affiliates being barred from auditing U.S.-traded companies—something that could complicate the audits of multinational companies doing business in China. The regulatory moves also stand to heighten a U.S.-China confrontation over how much U.S. officials can do to ensure that Chinese audit firms adhere to U.S. regulatory standards.

"It definitely is ratcheting up the pressure another notch," said Jack Ciesielski, publisher of the Analyst's Accounting Observer.

Chinese audit clients paid the local affiliates of the Big Four $175.2 million in fees in fiscal 2011, according to figures compiled by Audit Analytics, a consulting firm.

U.S. regulators have attempted to investigate alleged fraud at some Chinese companies, and the SEC has filed several lawsuits. But they have been unable to get information from the China-based firms that audit many of these companies, including Chinese affiliates of the Big Four—Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG.

Dozens of Chinese companies have raised billions of dollars in the past decade listing their shares on U.S. and Canadian exchanges, before their share prices plummeted amid questions about their bookkeeping and disclosures.

The SEC action, if an administrative law judge rules in its favor, could lead to the Big Four's Chinese affiliates being barred from auditing U.S.-traded companies—something that could complicate the audits of multinational companies doing business in China. The regulatory moves also stand to heighten a U.S.-China confrontation over how much U.S. officials can do to ensure that Chinese audit firms adhere to U.S. regulatory standards.

"It definitely is ratcheting up the pressure another notch," said Jack Ciesielski, publisher of the Analyst's Accounting Observer.

Chinese audit clients paid the local affiliates of the Big Four $175.2 million in fees in fiscal 2011, according to figures compiled by Audit Analytics, a consulting firm.

U.S. regulators have attempted to investigate alleged fraud at some Chinese companies, and the SEC has filed several lawsuits. But they have been unable to get information from the China-based firms that audit many of these companies, including Chinese affiliates of the Big Four—Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG.

(Published by WSJ - December 3, 2012)

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