15 julho 2016

Novos padrões de ética para contadores e auditores

Accountants will soon get a new and expanded rule book that gives them step-by-step guidance on what to do if they uncover corporate misdeeds, from money laundering to environmental abuses.

The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants plans to release new standards this week aimed at resolving potential conflicts of interest for internal and external accountants and auditors, who can feel bound by strict client confidentiality rules, even when they uncover wrongdoing.

More than six years in the making, the new standards come amid a spate of high-profile corporate missteps—from Volkswagen AG’s emissions-cheating scandal to allegedly inadequate money-laundering controls at financial firms like HSBC Holdings PLC andU.S. Bancorp.

“The standards clarify that professional accountants must be active and not turn a blind eye to noncompliance,” said Stavros Thomadakis, chairman of the IESBA, whose rules are used in over 100 jurisdictions. “It’s trying to bring about early, early detection, if you will, but also early action by management or authorities.”

“In times of crisis, there may be more of a temptation to not comply,” he added.

Some experts have doubts about the usefulness of the guidelines, at least in the U.S., where the Securities and Exchange Commission already takes accountants to task for failing to raise a red flag when they learn of regulatory infractions.

“If the SEC prosecutes, and it turns out the auditor knew, the SEC has the power to go after the accountant or auditor,” said Shivaram Rajgopal, a professor of accounting and auditing at Columbia Business School. “Maybe it might help in other countries” with less rigorous standards, he said.

Others wonder whether more ethics policies are necessary. “All of the professional accounting firms have codes of ethics,” said Cynthia Clark, director of the Harold Geneen Institute of Corporate Governance at Bentley University. For example, “if I violated the ethics code at KPMG, I would likely be fired,” she said.

Accountants need ethics codes given the conflicts inherent in the auditing process—which can pit their independence against their duty of confidentiality. But such codes aren’t the most important factor in resolving conflicts, said Hans Hoogervorst, chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board.

“I’ve always believed that a strong relationship between [a company’s] audit committee and the accountant, that should be the key to strengthening the independent role of the accountant,” he said.

Still, said Ms. Clark, “It’s hard to argue against more ethics guidelines.”

Even in the U.S., with its comparatively strict rules, problems abound. There were 71 class-action lawsuits related to allegations of improper accounting in 2015, the third straight year of increases, and up from the 10-year average of 67 filings, according to Cornerstone Research. The disclosed dollar losses totaled $34.8 billion last year, a 21% increase from 2014.

The increasingly complex interplay of compliance, transparency, and confidentiality makes more guidance helpful, said Anthony Poidomani, a professor of accounting at Northwestern University and finance chief for a logistics organization.

“You’re going to need to have a checklist, or a road map,” he said. “The ability to comply across the board and have your auditor comply is more difficult than it has been in the past 10 to 15 years.”

The new IESBA rules—about 20 pages— offer straightforward guidance on what an accountant who discovers or suspects wrongdoing should do. “Discuss the matter with the appropriate level of management and, where appropriate, those charged with governance,” the rules advise.


Fonte: WSJ

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