‘Big four’ accountancy firms seek last minute reprieve on Sarbanes-Oxley

SEC sent letters requesting relaxation of proposed rules on auditor independence

The big four accountancy firms have now all sent the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) letters asking for a last-ditch reprieve on auditor independence proposals that threaten accountancy-tied law firms worldwide. Revenues at Landwell, KLegal and Tite & Lewis will be hard hit unless the SEC changes its mind.

Under the Sarbanes-Oxley regulations as they currently stand, accountancy-tied law firms outside the US will not be able to work for the SEC-registered clients.

Referral levels vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but some countries, including France, will be particularly hard hit because lawyers are the only professionals allowed to give tax advice under local bar rules.

One partner heavily involved with the lobbying estimated that the accountancy-tied firms stand to lose on average12 per cent of their global revenue under the new regime. However, he believed that this would be a temporary blip rather than the end of the accountancy-tied model.

Meanwhile, it has been rumoured that the SEC has caved in to demands by US and foreign law firms to drop provisions for a so-called “noisy withdrawl” by lawyers who uncover financial wrongdoing at their clients. UK firms were opposed to the rules, which had extra-territorial application and could have left them open to civil suits from their clients.