PwC appeals two-year ban on audits in India

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PricewaterhouseCoopers’ firm in India is appealing a two-year ban on auditing public companies by the Securities Exchange Board of India.

The Indian financial regulator imposed the ban earlier this month after the Price Waterhouse firm in India failed to detect nearly $1 billion in inflated revenue by one of its audit clients, Satyam Computer Services, in 2009.

PwC is appealing the ban and asking for the appeal to be heard on an expedited basis. “We are happy that Securities and Appellate Tribunal (SAT) has expressed its intention to resolve our appeal against SEBI on an expedited basis, and has set an expectation of a tight timeline of six weeks to dispose the appeal,” the Price Waterhouse Network of firms in India said in a statement. “The clarification that current engagements can continue through the year, is welcome. Over the years, our stakeholders have witnessed the huge investment we made in tools, training and infrastructure and we remain committed to maintaining the highest standards of quality in our services.”

The appeal is expected to be heard by the end of next month. “We applied for a stay, which was rejected, however, as the appeal has not yet been heard but will be heard by the end of February,” said spokesman Mike Davies.

In the U.S., PwC is gearing up for another big event: the Academy Awards in March. The firm is anxious to avoid the envelope mix-up that marred the Best Picture award at last year’s ceremony, when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were mistakenly handed the envelope for the Best Actress award instead. They announced that “La La Land” had won the Best Picture trophy, and as the “La La Land” producers were giving their acceptance speeches, a pair of PwC partners ran onstage and informed them that the award was supposed to go to “Moonlight.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences considered replacing PwC last year as the accounting firm handling the ballots, but decided in the end to keep the longstanding relationship, with some changes. The two partners who handled the ballots last year won’t be at this year’s ceremony. One of them had been tweeting backstage during the ceremony, taking photos of Best Actress winner Emma Stone just before handing over the envelope for the Best Picture category, and that may have distracted him.

Instead PwC US chairman and senior partner Tim Ryan will be personally involved this year. He told the Associated Press that a third partner will now be involved, including one who successfully handled the envelopes for 14 years at the Oscars. There will be a new formal procedure in place to confirm the presenters have received the correct envelopes for the category. The three PwC partners will attend the rehearsal to practice the envelope handling. In addition, they won’t be allowed to use mobile phones or social media during the ceremony.

Separately this week, PwC also released the results of its 2018 CEO Survey at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It revealed that U.S. CEOs are the most confident they’ve been about business prospects since the 2008 financial crisis. The survey found that 52 percent of US CEOs are “very confident” in revenue growth over the next 12 months. In addition, 69 percent of U.S. CEOs plan to do new M&A deals over the next 12 months, up from 55 percent in last year’s survey. Now that they’re no longer worried about the global economy, U.S. CEOs in 2018 do have some other worries, though, including cyberattacks, talent, terrorism, over-regulation and geopolitical uncertainty.

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