SEBI bars PwC from auditing listed firms for two years

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"It is possibly the beginning of the end of the Price Waterhouse's auditing business in India as the clients will turn elsewhere".

"Entities/firms practicing as chartered accountants in India under the brand and banner of PW shall not directly or indirectly issue any certificate of audit of listed companies, compliance of obligations of listed companies and intermediaries registered with SEBI...for a period of two years", SEBI said in its 108-page order, according to The Hindu.

The order says the noticees were granted an opportunity by Sebi to conduct an inspection of all the documents collected during the investigation, and PwC entities and the representatives of engagement partners took out separate inspection of records.

Soon after the SEBI order, Price Waterhouse Network issued a statement saying, "We are disappointed with the findings of the Sebi investigations and the adjudication order".

The SEBI order comes nearly seven years after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) agreed to a $6 million settlement over charges against Indian affiliates of Price Waterhouse related to deficient auditing of Satyam.

The Corporate Affairs Ministry will examine the Securities and Exchange Board of India's (SEBI) order against audit major Price Waterhouse (PW) in the Satyam Computer Services case, Union Minister P P Chaudhary said on Thursday.

"We believe that the order is also not in line with the directions of the Bombay High Court order of 2010 and so we are confident of getting a stay", Price Waterhouse said in a statement. In 2009 too, the firm had filed a consent plea with Sebi which was rejected by the regulatory body.

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The Satyam fraud, one of the biggest financial frauds in the country, came to the fore in the year 2009, when its's founder Ramalinga Raju admitted and confessed before market regulator SEBI about large-scale financial manipulations in the account books of Satyam Computer Service Ltd.

Shares of Satyam were also listed in the US. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri-who had certified Satyam's audit reports in 2000-08, to disgorge Rs13 crore, including interest.

SEBI investigated the auditor's role in the accounting fraud.

"We have, however, learned the lessons of Satyam and invested heavily over the last nine years in building a robust and high-quality audit practice".

The order said that auditor should have applied an attitude of professional skepticism and got carried away by the company's reputation.

PwC now audits more than 75 Indian companies covered by the order, and around 3,000 PwC employees could be affected, a source familiar with the matter told CNNMoney.

PW was also complacent on not effectively implementing the accounting standards that laid considerable importance on effectiveness of internal audit and the need for an external audit to place trust on internal audit for collaborating, increased coverage and optimal usage of time. In the light of that stand, it is expected to challenge the Sebi order.

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