Pressure on rivals as KPMG limits work for audit clients

Big Four Accounting Firms Come Under Government Scrutiny

Two of the world's biggest accountancy firms have backed a ban on United Kingdom auditors selling extra services to their audit clients, setting the stage for a huge shift in the embattled sector.

Reports circulated by the United Kingdom media have stated that KPMG is to stop undertaking non-audit work for FTSE-350 companies whose accounts it supervises.

Deloitte and KPMG - two members of audit's Big Four - have backed the move, which would potentially put hundreds of millions in fee income up for grabs.

Both KPMG and Deloitte have responded to a review of the sector by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is looking at ways to break-up the sector.

He said there continued to be a "significant commentary around the extent to which the provision by the auditor of non-audit services to listed companies creates a conflict of interest or perception of such".

Over the past five years, the Big Four's share of FTSE 350 auditing expanded from 95% to 98%, in spite of a series of supposedly stringent reforms from the European Union and United Kingdom aimed at tackling a lack of competition in the sector, since the 2008 financial crisis.

Deloitte has shared its response to the CMA's investigation, including its own set of remedy proposals.

Regulations now allow firms to earn up to another 70 per cent of their audit fee by supplying non-audit fees to FTSE 350 clients, but after Carillion's collapse the sector's Big Four firms are facing the possibility of stricter rules coming into force via a watchdog probe.

KPMG now earns less of its income from non-audit services than its rivals.

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In a leaked memo to partners from KPMG chairman Bill Michael, he said the company was "working towards" stopping non-audit work for FTSE 350 clients if it was also auditing them.

Barnes said: "we recognise that in the United Kingdom there are still concerns around auditor independence".

Bill Michael, KPMG's United Kingdom chair, said the firm would stop providing non-audit services for FTSE 350 companies "to remove even the perception of a possible conflict", in a memo to partners sent on Thursday.

The industry watchdog is now looking at banning them from doing both auditing and non-audit work.

"We have also been clear that this would be most impactful if implemented within a regulatory framework for all FTSE350 companies and we will be discussing this point with the CMA in due course". KPMG was heavily criticised for its audit of Carillion before its failure at the start of the year.

It said KMPG's audits in particular had shown "an unacceptable deterioration".

In its response, the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) has suggested a cap of 60 per cent for the Big Four. "Multidisciplinary firms are the only realistic model capable of carrying out complex, multi-faceted, global audits", Michael wrote.

Last month, the FRC said its review of the audit industry would "include determining whether further actions are needed to prevent auditor independence being compromised, including whether all consulting work for bodies they audit should be banned".

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