May 24, 2013
Drew Bernstein, Co-Managing Partner of Marcum Bernstein & Pinchuk, Quoted in LAW360 "US-China Audit Truce Offers Weak Shield For Investors"
By Evan Weinberger
A Friday agreement allowing U.S. regulators to seek documents from Chinese accounting firms targeted for enforcement actions marked an improvement in relations between the two countries, but analysts say investors will remain vulnerable to fraud until U.S. regulators can perform regular audit reviews in China.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board announced a memorandum of understanding with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the country's Ministry of Finance that will make it easier for regulators from both countries to get access to audit information when investigating potential fraud.
"This agreement with China is an important step toward cross-border enforcement cooperation that is necessary to protect the interests of investors in U.S. capital markets,” PCAOB Chairman James R. Doty said in a statement.
The agreement marks a significant step in negotiations between U.S. securities and accounting regulators and their Chinese counterparts over the ability to review audits of Chinese companies issuing stock in the U.S.
Those talks had been stuck for some time, with the Chinese government resisting on sovereignty grounds requests from the PCAOB and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the power to regularly inspect Chinese auditing firms.
The only real way for U.S. regulators to have a good picture of the financial state of Chinese firms listed in the U.S. and the auditors that confirm those standards would be to get the right to perform regular audit inspections, said Drew Bernstein, co-managing partner at Marcum Bernstein & Pinchuk LLP.
“That's been one of the key components in judging an accounting firm's ability,” Bernstein said.
The PCAOB said it will continue to work with its Chinese counterparts on those issues.