In the latest turf battle to come to light between the two groups, the American Institute of CPAs and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy skirmished over NASBA's interest in the details of public company audit inspection reports.In a recent alert sent out from the AICPA Center for Public Company Audit Firms, director Lillian Ceynowa wrote that member firms were not required to comply with inquiries from some state boards requesting the identities of individuals and companies referred to in Public Company Accounting Oversight Board inspection reports.
Ceynowa noted that firms could comply with the information request, but she suggested that they might instead consider directing state boards back to the PCAOB. She wrote: "[Obtaining] inspection information outside of this process deprives the PCAOB of its statutory role in referring matters on a discretionary basis and circumvents the processes and controls that would otherwise apply if the state board sought the information directly from the PCAOB."
In a joint response, NASBA chairwoman Diane Rubin and president and chief executive David Costello wrote that, while the PCAOB has the power to discipline registered firms and CPAs, it's the state boards that actually perform the licensing.
"This is just one of those situations where we've agreed to disagree," Costello said. "To us, the issue here is the quality of the work these firms, and these individuals, are performing."
Costello said that while the PCAOB allows state boards to review the entire contents of inspection reports after signing a confidentiality agreement, accountants aren't always referred to by name under the privacy provisions that the PCAOB itself agrees to. But he said that there's nothing that suggests state boards can't write to a licensee and request the names of people cited in a deficient report.
"What the PCAOB is looking for - those national standards might very well be different from the local requirements," Costello said. "A lot of times the question to a regional firm is, 'In my state, who was involved?' In most cases, it just comes down to monitoring and being aware of an individual and a situation."
Costello said that he didn't know what degree of cooperation the state boards that had requesting specific information were receiving, but that he had heard anecdotal stories going both ways.
The back-and-forth ended in early March with a letter authored by Susan Coffey, senior vice president of member quality and state regulation for the AICPA. She declined to rescind the alert's suggestions for handling information requests, and reiterated that as part of the inspection process, firms must agree that the PCAOB will determine what information should be released to state licensing agencies.
"The alert was intended to provide a mechanism for our members to appropriately handle inquiries from state boards, while being true to the regime set up by Sarbanes-Oxley," Coffey wrote in the letter. She later added, "We have no intention to obstruct any request for information. We merely believe that an appropriate means of compliance is to involve the PCAOB in the solution."
The AICPA had no further comment on the matter, and the PCAOB has remained silent on the dust-up between the groups.
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