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Can auditors be trusted after the Enron collapse?

Published: 
9 March 2004

Vital issues of ethics and independence within the accountancy profession will be on the agenda in Southampton this month at the 14th National Auditing Conference, organised by the University of Southampton's School of Management.

The aftermath of the bankruptcy of US energy giant Enron and the prosecution of their auditors Arthur Andersen are still making waves. Fresh scandals such as the insolvency of Italian food company Parmalat are also raising ethical questions.

Leading academics will join practitioners in the field of auditing on 26 and 27 March at the Hilton National Hotel, Chilworth, Southampton to discuss current issues including potential conflicts of interest between companies' audit and consultancy functions.

"This is a valuable opportunity to debate the important questions facing auditing in the 21st century," said organizer John Young of the School of Management.

"It is now big business. Our largest companies can pay around £20 million a year in audit fees and £30 million in consultancy fees. The vast majority of the largest companies are audited by the big four audit firms, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers."

A paper on the reform of the UK's auditor independence framework after the Enron collapse will be given by Stella Fearnley from the University of Portsmouth and Vivien Beattie of the University of Stirling. Other subjects will include forensic auditing and US Governance.

Notes for editors

  1. The 14th National Auditing Conference is open to the press.
  2. The University of Southampton's School of Management has an international reputation for academic and teaching excellence, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Accounting, Banking, Corporate Risk, Finance, Information Systems, Management, Management Sciences and Risk Management. In October 2000 the national Quality Assurance Agency graded the School as 'excellent' in the assessment of its teaching quality for Higher Education. The School achieved a score of 23 out of a possible 24. Its PhD programme was awarded mode 'A' recognition by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The School now has over 700 students representing over 50 countries enrolled on its programmes, and over 40 full-time staff to teach them.

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