Foreign audit watchdogs have greater
access to US audit information than the Public Company Accounting
Oversight Board (PCAOB) does in other jurisdictions, the US
watchdog has claimed.

PCAOB chairman Mark Olson said that on the
balance the PCAOB is more restricted than foreign counterparts when
investigating the activities of firms that audit entities listed
within its jurisdiction.

However, speaking to The Accountant for the US
survey (see Seeking opportunity in risky times), Olson
said Sarbanes-Oxley regulation prevents the PCAOB from sharing some
information – a restriction he would like removed – and that
complete reliance between national regulators was a work in
progress.

Olson was responding to the EC’s decision
earlier this year to put on hold plans to co-operate with Japanese,
Canadian and US audit oversight bodies until it perceives the US is
showing more trust in its European counterparts.

He said building co-operative relationships
involves challenges arising from legal issues that vary between
jurisdictions.

“In some jurisdictions, we are told the law
significantly limits the information a firm registered with the
PCAOB can provide to the PCAOB, even though US law does not impose
any comparable restrictions on a foreign regulator’s ability to
obtain audit work papers and related materials from a US firm,” he
said.

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Feeling positive

Olson said the board is making
progress in building co-operative relationships.

“We understand some of those regulators would
like to see us move quickly to something like complete reliance on
their work, and we continue to carefully consider issues related to
that question.

“In the meantime, we are doing all we can to
build relationships and find ways to effectively carry out the
auditor oversight that Sarbanes-Oxley mandates for the benefit of
investors,” he said.

“I think those efforts, and the efforts of our
non-US regulatory counterparts, are moving us all in the right
direction, if sometimes a bit more slowly than we might hope.”