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 Statement on the 2013 PCAOB Academic Conference

DATE: April 25, 2013
SPEAKER: Jeanette M. Franzel, Board Member
EVENT: 2013 PCAOB Academic Conference
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

Thanks to each of you for attending the 2013 PCAOB Academic Conference, and thanks to Greg Scates and the other members of our staff for coordinating the Conference and leading the discussion sessions.

Before I get started, I must tell you that the views I express today are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board, any other Board member, or the staff of the PCAOB.

Today's conference represents the ninth Academic Conference held by the PCAOB and the Auditing Section of the American Accounting Association (AAA).

As you know, the PCAOB began operations in January 2003 to carry out its mission of overseeing the audits of public companies in order to protect the interests of investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit reports.

In fact, 10 years ago today, on April 25, 2003, the Securities and Exchange Commission determined that the PCAOB was organized and had obtained the capacity to carry out the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and enforce compliance with the Act by registered public accounting firms and their associated persons.

In its first year of operations, the Board and its staff began the impressive job of establishing PCAOB's operations and programs. By 2004, the PCAOB had established close ties to the academic community, actively exchanging information related to PCAOB's mission and standard-setting activities.

PCAOB held its first annual academic conference in 2004 and also worked with the Executive Committee of the Auditing Section of the AAA to establish an unprecedented project — nine teams conducted synthesis of existing research to address issues faced by the Board in formulating its auditing standards and dealing with some of the issues addressed by the PCAOB's Standing Advisory Group (SAG).

As many of you know, Gary Holstrum was instrumental in not only organizing our first several academic conferences, he also initiated the research synthesis project. That project was carried out from 2005 — 2008 and resulted in 10 research synthesis papers involving topics of critical importance to the PCAOB's development of standards and its oversight activities.[1]

We now refer to that effort as the "first research synthesis project," as a second round of research synthesis was initiated in 2011 and is currently wrapping up. This second round of research synthesis involved 13 teams and 13 synthesis papers. Some of these projects built on the topics covered in the first round while new topics were introduced, including audit quality indicators, independence, professional skepticism, and going concern, among others.[2]

The primary goal of the research synthesis teams was to supply to PCAOB staff, who were working on selected PCAOB standard-setting projects, a synthesis of existing research related to those projects. Since joining the Board, I have personally read many of the synthesis papers, and countless other academic studies relevant to the mission of the PCAOB.

I mention this history to put into context the value that academics such as you have contributed to PCAOB programs and activities in overseeing the audits of issuers and broker-dealers. Your research in critical areas have contributed to the establishment of PCAOB's standards and oversight activities during the first 10 years of operations, and will continue to be used as we examine the critical issues of auditor independence, professional skepticism, audit quality, and the many items on our standard-setting and oversight agenda.

At the same time, we are seeing academic research evolving to include examination of the results and impact of PCAOB standards, inspections, and other oversight activities.

This year's conference agenda covers the full range of PCAOB's statutory responsibilities, including matters that are most relevant to the environment we find ourselves in 10 years after we first opened our doors. This 10-year mark provides the opportunity not only to reflect on progress to date, but to consider factors we will face in the next 10 years as PCAOB's standards and oversight programs continue to evolve and as the profession continues to take actions to remediate identified quality control deficiencies and respond to PCAOB oversight.

In this dynamic environment, our goals of protecting investors and furthering the public interest through independent and high quality audits remain steadfast. In order to achieve these goals, we need to look to the near future — the next 10 years -- and establish sustainable regulatory approaches for the long term, while being nimble and responsive to near future risks and emerging issues.

Ongoing academic research — and our own internal analyses of market information and information obtained from our oversight activities — can provide insights into emerging trends and changing conditions, as well as evolving risks in financial reporting and auditing that are relevant to PCAOB's mission and the continuing evolution and maturation of our oversight programs.

PCAOB is now exiting its "startup and high growth phase" and will begin a phase over the next few years of a "leveling off" of growth, as the organization matures and reaches a more stable size and structure. We are also using our strategic planning and risk management processes to identify long term refinements to our programs and activities to better respond to the insights that we can gain from our oversight activities, outreach and interaction with stakeholders, external trends, and other sources, including academic study.

In the near term — and, I believe, to push us in this direction — the Board has identified six priorities for 2013 that offer synergies to help the PCAOB leverage its strengths in order to further investor protection through high quality and transparent audit oversight activities:

  • improving the timeliness, content and readability of inspection reports, including outreach designed to improve the usefulness of reports;
  • improving the timeliness of remediation determinations and providing additional information about the PCAOB's remediation process;
  • initiating a project to identify audit quality measures, with a longer term goal of tracking such measures with respect to domestic global network firms and reporting collective measures over time;
  • enhancing the PCAOB's processes and systems to improve analysis and usefulness of PCAOB inspections findings, including comparative analysis across firms and over time, in order to better understand audit quality in firms and better inform the PCAOB's standard-setting and other regulatory activities;
  • enhancing the framework for the PCAOB's standard-setting process in order to improve the effectiveness of the process as well as the standard-setting project tracking information provided to investors and the public; and
  • enhancing PCAOB's outreach to and interaction with audit committees to constructively engage in areas of mutual interest, including auditor independence and audit quality.

Some of these near-term activities are operational in nature and intended to better position our operations in the future — such as improving the timeliness of inspection reporting and remediation determinations and providing more information about our remediation process. Other near term priorities — including the projects on audit quality measures, outreach to audit committees, and enhancing the standard-setting framework-- are strategic initiatives that will help us shape our programs and regulatory approaches for the future.

Clearly these strategic initiatives being taken on by the Board will utilize academic research and will also provide opportunities for future research. In addition, the outreach we conduct as part of our efforts to improve the usefulness of our individual firm inspection reports and our general reporting will benefit from the insights provided by the academic community.

As we begin our annual strategic planning and risk assessment process for 2014, the Board will assess its progress on these near term priorities, update them, and explore other strategic initiatives that will be beneficial and necessary to carry out our mission into the future. As part of this process, we will be examining questions such as, how can we effectively measure the profession's performance and long term progress, as well as our own.

And, to bring me back to the focus of this conference, we will also be looking for ways to leverage the skills and resources of stakeholders and talented researchers. We will continue to look to the academic community for your research, feedback, and input to help us address discrete programmatic and policy issues before the Board as well as our strategic priorities.

Thanks for all that you do to educate future members of the profession while conducting research to help advance the integrity and reliability of financial reporting and auditing.

I look forward to continuing to work with the academic community as PCAOB continues to advance its mission into the future.

[1] The following topics were covered in the first research synthesis project (1) audit confirmations, (2) audit firm quality control, (3) audit reporting model, (4) auditor risk assessments, (5) communications with audit committees, (6) engagement quality review, (7) fair value, (8) financial fraud, and (9) related party transactions.

[2] The following topics were covered in the second research synthesis project (1) audit firms' quality control, (2) audit quality indicators, (3) auditor's reporting model, (4) using the work of internal auditors, (5) fair value and estimates, (6) financial fraud, (7) going concern, (8) independence, (9) sampling, (10) service organizations, (11) subsequent events, (12) audits of internal control over financial reporting, and (13) professional skepticism.