The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has raised the aggregate 2009 fee it assesses to public companies and other issuers to $157.4 million from $151.8 million.
Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the PCAOB is able to annually assess companies an accounting support fee, in proportion to their market capitalization, to fund the board’s activities, which include inspecting accounting firms that audit public companies. The hike would increase the fee, which the Securities and Exchange Commission approved in December 2008, by 3.7 percent. However, the PCAOB does not plan to use the additional funds until both the board and the SEC have approved a supplemental budget.
The fee hike is intended to cover any possible shortfalls in the PCAOB’s budget and to avoid sending companies a second bill for its services. PCAOB Chairman Mark Olson is also worried about the effects of the economic crisis causing companies to stiff the board on its fees.
“The PCAOB has historically enjoyed a high collection rate,” he wrote in a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro. “For example, in 2008, the PCAOB collected 99.3 percent of its accounting support fee within 90 days after invoices were issued. Given deteriorating economic conditions, however, the PCAOB may experience a significantly different collection rate in 2009.”
Olson said that the PCAOB might also submit a supplemental budget request to the SEC if a proposed bill passes in Congress that gives the PCAOB oversight of nonpublic broker/dealer auditors. The bill would amend Sarbanes-Oxley to give the PCAOB the authority to regulate such auditors, which might have helped the PCAOB discover problems with the auditor of Bernard Madoff’s investment firm, Friehling & Horowitz.
Olson pointed out that the PCAOB would need to develop an inspection methodology and risk analyses, hire and train additional staff, and establish a new funding system.
Separately, the PCAOB also intends to consider whether to submit a supplemental budget request to strengthen its non-U.S. inspections program, the documentation of its inspection planning and fieldwork, and its enforcement resources. Olson said that the PCAOB would first meet any new resource needs by reallocating any available funds from its existing 2009 budget.
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