The Big 4 predicament: Incompetence, obfuscation and sometimes fraud

In response to the latest report from BEIS into the future of auditing, it’s clear that radical reform of the auditing profession is now inevitable and it’s long overdue. The Big 4’s monopoly of the largest audits – last year they were responsible for all but 11 of the FTSE 350 constituents – is under particularly close scrutiny and people in high places have finally realised that relationships between the top audit firms and their clients have become far too cosy.

One of the major problems has been that their clients (including the High Street banks, by the way) have been content not to be questioned too closely about their financial accounts. They have been more than happy to part with fat audit fees to have them signed off by a big, prestigious auditor. This drop in standards has been driven by arrogance.

Powerful voices are coming out against the Big 4 – and Angus Dent, CEO of ArchOver, argues that it’s about time. We must embrace and help shape reform rather than have it imposed from the outside. Above all, we need an audit profession we can rely upon and in which we trust. The more the people in it are seen as smug, overpaid and elitist, the more they will be despised – a bit like the bankers who let down society ten years ago.