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Study of auditors' liability in the EU

  • European Union (old) Image

04 Oct 2006

The European Commission has published an independent study on the economic impact of current EU rules on auditors' liability regimes and on insurance conditions in EU member states.

The study analyses the structure of the auditing market and its possible development in the future, describes the existing limitations in the insurance market for international audits, examines the economic needs for limiting auditors' liability, and compares several possible methods for limiting liability. Key conclusions of the study (not necessarily the views of the Commission) are:
  • The international market for statutory audits of large and very large companies is highly concentrated and dominated by the Big-4 networks. The likelihood of new entrants into this market is very limited in the coming years. Additionally, under the current circumstances, middle-tier firms are unlikely to become a major alternative if a Big-4 network fails.
  • The level of auditor liability insurance available for higher limits has fallen sharply in recent years. The remaining source of funds to face claims may essentially be the income of partners belonging to the same international network. Constantly large claims might therefore put at risk an entire network.
  • The failure of a network could lead to difficult consequences for the wider economy like a significant reduction in large company statutory audit capacity possibly creating serious problems for companies whose financial statements need to be audited.
  • A limitation on auditor liability would reduce this risk. While there exist a number of variants of statutory audit liability limitation, the diversity of circumstances in terms of both audits and company size is such that it is unlikely that a one-size-fits-all EU-wide approach is the most useful.
The Commission intends to issue a report based on this study before the end of 2006, and to invite comments. Click for:

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