PCAOB may soon require naming of engagement partner

By Ken Tysiac

New rules requiring identification of the engagement partner in U.S. public company audits may be imminent.

PCAOB Chairman James Doty said Tuesday that he is hopeful that early next year the board will finalize a standard that will require publication of the name of the engagement partner and other participating firms in audits.

The issue of whether and where to name the engagement partner has long been a topic of debate. Some investors have said the information would be meaningful, but some in the accounting profession have said naming the engagement partner would not improve audit quality.

During a board meeting in which the PCAOB approved its 2015 budget and its strategic plan for 2014 through 2018, the board discussed its plans and priorities for the coming years. PCAOB member Steve Harris expressed support for identifying the engagement partner.

“I look forward to the board successfully concluding this project as soon as possible in the new year,” Harris said. “I note that such transparency is already a common practice in much of the world.”

It’s not clear where the engagement partner would be named, assuming the standard is approved. Locations that have been suggested include the audit report, Form 2 of audit firms’ annual reports, and a new “Form 5” that firms could be required to file shortly after companies’ 10-K annual reports are issued.

Other priorities for the PCAOB in 2015 include:

  • Deepening the PCAOB’s use of data, information technology, and economic analysis in standard-setting and other activities.
  • Expanding the board’s interim inspection program for audits of broker-dealers, while working to establish a permanent program.
  • A concept release that would discuss how to define audit quality indicators.
  • Continued work on an initiative geared toward expanding the auditor’s report to provide more information to investors.
  • More work addressing the going-concern assumption and use of specialists.

The PCAOB approved a $250.9 million budget, which still needs backing from the SEC to come into force. That’s a decrease from the $258.4 million budget approved for 2014.

The total accounting support fee for 2015 will be $226.6 million. Public companies will pay about $199.1 million, and broker-dealers will pay $27.5 million.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA editorial director.

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