Over the years, I've worked for companies that prided themselves on their mission statements.Depending on which company I was with at the time, I've had them emblazoned on the back of my business cards, at the top of personalized stationery and even across internal file folders. One company president was so gung-ho about his company's mission statement that he actually went around handing out silver dollars to employees who could accurately recite it.
Some statements are more easily recognized than others; for example, most are familiar with the one prominently displayed over most post offices. But can any reader tell me whose mission statement is as follows?
"To advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity and responsibility."
It's actually the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which just last month reached out to the auditing profession in a white paper by pleading with regulators and overseers to protect audit firms from threats, either real or perceived, that may force them to take in their shingles and look for a safer business niche. The COC also took the proverbial stick to the hornet's nest by calling for liability limits - holding individual auditors liable for fraud as opposed to the entire firm - and for the creation of a system under which auditing firms could be insured.
The COC cited the familiar example of Arthur Andersen's collapse, where 28,000 or so employees suffered for the misdeeds of a select few. "The profession finds itself the target of a difficult litigation and regulatory enforcement environment, where business losses by a client can result in lawsuits, and a single indictment - even without a conviction - can result in the destruction of thousands of jobs," said the COC's treatise.
The above must be the "social system" and "responsibility" sections of the COC's mission statement.
The influential trade group urged regulators to sort of retreat from dispensing general guidance on how to conduct audits in lieu of more of specific guidance that would basically curtail the workload performed by said auditors.
Now few would argue that the abovementioned doesn't contain more than a few good points for further discussion.
However, I'm skeptical on some areas.
For example, the Chamber also wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine its previous prohibition on firms auditing a public company's books if they had performed "other services" (read: consulting services) in past years for public clients.
The COC is adamant that relaxing the regulation would help foster greater competition among Big Four auditing firms - which, to no one's surprise, perform the lion's share of public company audits.
As one who covers the profession, I think I can say without pausing that there's already a healthy amount of competition among the Big Four. But even after three years of audit firms operating under the watch of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, I'm not convinced that any auditing prohibitions are crying to be relaxed at this point.
As proof, I'm sure you can still find former employees at both Andersen and Enron who can somberly recite their respective mission statements.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access