On March 17, 2004, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (the “Board” or the “PCAOB”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) proposed Auditing Standard No. 2, An Audit of Internal Control Over Financial Reporting Performed in Conjunction with an Audit of Financial Statements (“Auditing Standard No. 2”), pursuant to section 107 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the “Act”) and section 19(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). Auditing Standard No. 2 would provide the professional standards and related performance guidance for independent auditors to attest to, and report on, management's assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting under section 404 of the Act. Notice of the proposed standard was published in Start Printed Page 35084the Federal Register on April 16, 2004, and the Commission received 31 comment letters. For the reasons discussed below, the Commission is granting approval of the proposed standard.
The Act establishes the PCAOB to oversee the audits of public companies and related matters, to protect investors, and to further the public interest in preparation of informative, accurate and independent audit reports. Section 103(a) of the Act directs the PCAOB to establish auditing and related attestation standards, quality control standards, and ethics standards to be used by registered public accounting firms in the preparation and issuance of audit reports as required by the Act or the rules of the Commission. The Board has defined the term “auditing and related processional practice standards” to mean the standards established or adopted by the Board under section 103(a) of the Act.
Section 404 of the Act requires that registered public accounting firms attest to and report on an assessment of internal control made by management, and that such attestation “shall be made in accordance with standards for attestation engagements issued or adopted by the Board.” The Board's proposed Auditing Standard No. 2 provides the professional standards and related performance guidance for independent auditors to attest to, and report on, management's assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting under section 404 of the Act. A significant aspect of this proposed standard is the requirement of the independent auditor to attest on two items. The auditor has to evaluate management's assessment process to be satisfied that management has an appropriate basis for its conclusion. Additionally, the auditor must test and evaluate both the design and the operating effectiveness of internal control to be satisfied that management's conclusion is correct and, therefore, fairly stated. The auditor's report on internal control over financial reporting will express two opinions—an opinion on whether management's assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting as of the end of the most recent fiscal year is fairly stated, and an opinion on whether the company has maintained effective internal control over financial reporting as of that date.
The Commission received 31 comment letters in response to its request for comments on Auditing Standard No. 2. The comment letters came from issuers, registered public accounting firms, professional associations and others. In general, issuers expressed opposition to the proposed standard, and accounting firms, professional associations, and others expressed support for the proposed standard. Most commenters, irrespective of affiliation or position on the proposed standard, recommended that the Commission and the PCAOB provide additional guidance with respect to a number of different issues. Several commenters recommended that the Commission limit the scope of management's assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting by excluding entities that are consolidated but over which the issuer lacks control.
Issuers and many of the professional associations also expressed concern with the cost of compliance in terms of management time, consultant fees and audit fees. One commenter requested that the PCAOB closely monitor the impact of the proposed standard on small and medium-sized companies. Other requests included clarifying that an adverse internal control report would not of itself result in regulatory action; delaying the effective date of the proposed standard; providing a one-year deferral to issuers that meet the definition of an accelerated filer for the first time in 2004; and deferring the accelerated filing date for Forms 10-K filed for year-end 2004. The PCAOB gave careful consideration to the issues raised by these commenters in the course of revising the proposed standard prior to its adoption by the Board. The resulting standard is a reasonable exercise of the Board's standards-setting authority under the Act.
On the basis of the foregoing, the Commission finds that proposed Auditing Standard No. 2 is consistent with the requirements of the Act and the securities laws and is necessary and appropriate in the public interest and for the protection of investors.
It is therefore ordered, pursuant to Section 107 of the Act and Section 19(b)(2) of the Exchange Act, that proposed Auditing Standard No. 2, An Audit of Internal Control Over Financial Reporting Performed in Conjunction With an Audit of Financial Statements (File No. PCAOB-2004-03) be and hereby is approved.Start Signature
By the Commission.
Margaret H. McFarland,
2. Section 101(a) of the Act.Back to Citation
[FR Doc. 04-14233 Filed 6-22-04; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8010-01-P