The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved a rule amendment from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board giving the board the ability to postpone inspections of non-U.S. auditing firms for up to three years.

The PCAOB has been encountering stiff resistance in some countries to its inspections of foreign accounting firms that audit companies trading on U.S. stock exchanges (see PCAOB Thwarted on Foreign Firm Inspections). The rule amendment, which the PCAOB originally proposed last July, gives the board the option to delay for up to three years the original 2009 deadline for the first inspection of 49 non-U.S. firms that are located in 24 jurisdictions in which the board has not previously conducted an inspection.

Under the amendment, the PCAOB would instead conduct the inspections through 2011, according to a sequence based on the U.S. market capitalization of the 49 firms’ issuer clients.

The rule amendment does not affect the inspection frequency requirements concerning any other first inspections or any second, or later, inspections of a firm. The amendment also does not limit the PCAOB’s authority to conduct inspections at any time or affect the registered firms’ obligations under Sarbanes-Oxley.

The SEC noted that it received no comments on the proposed rule amendment, which was published for public comment on Nov. 25 of last year. 

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