Read time: 4 minutes

Did U.S. Audit Firms Look The Other Way Because They Already Expected Bailout For Bad Banks?

Unbelievable. Just insane. Just look at the things we can learn from watching the way bank failures were handled in the UK. From Re: The Auditors, Francine McKenna's specialized site about the business of the Big 4 audit firms: The

bankaudit.jpg

Unbelievable. Just insane. Just look at the things we can learn from watching the way bank failures were handled in the UK. From Re: The Auditors, Francine McKenna's specialized site about the business of the Big 4 audit firms:

The leadership of the Big 4 audit firms in the UK has admitted that they did not issue “going concern” opinions because they were told, confidentially, by government officials the banks would be bailed out.

The Herald of Scotland, November 24, 2010: John Connolly, chief executive of Deloitte auditor to Royal Bank of Scotland, said the UK’s big four accountancy firms initiated “detailed discussions” with then City minister Lord Paul Myners in late 2008 soon after the collapse of Lehman Brothers prompted money markets to gum up.

Ian Powell, chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said there had been talks the previous year.

Debate centred on whether the banks’ accounts could be signed off as “going concerns”. All banks got a clean bill of health even though they ended up needing vast amounts of taxpayer support.

Mr. Connolly said: “In the circumstances we were in, it was recognised that the banks would only be ‘going concerns’ if there was support forthcoming.”

“The consequences of reaching the conclusion that a bank was actually going to go belly up were huge.”  John Connolly, Deloitte

He said that the firms held meetings in December 2008 and January 2009 with Lord Myners, a former director of NatWest who was appointed Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury in October 2008.

I’ve asked the question many times why there were no “going concern” opinions for the banks and other institutions that were bailed out, failed or essentially nationalized here in the US.  I’ve never received a good answer until now.  In fact, I had the impression the auditors were not there.  There has been no mention of their presence or their role in any accounts of the crisis.  There has been no similar admission that meetings in took place between the auditors and the Federal Reserve or the Treasury leading to Lehman’s failure and afterwards. No one has asked them.

How could I been so naive?

If it happened in the UK, why not in the US?

Does Andrew Ross Sorkin have any notes about this that didn’t make it to his book?

Will Ted Kaufmann call the auditors to account now that he is Chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel?

Is there still time to call the four US leaders to testify in front of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission?

What is the recourse for shareholders and other stakeholders who lost everything if the government was the one who prevented them from hearing any warning?

Certainly the auditors are now more inside the room than outside.  I never take them for toadies, just standing in the corner waiting for their orders after the big boys talk, even though others have said I give them too much credit for being strategic.  Their complacence is calculated. They are much too tied into the work, and the millions in fees, that have been generated by the aftermath of the crisis. Are the millions in fees for supporting the Treasury and the Fed’s cleanup of the crisis their reward for going along? Is this the same acquiescence that doesn’t seem to bother their UK colleagues one bit?

Reuters: John Griffith-Jones, chairman of KPMG in Europe, said the banking industry is built on confidence and that full disclosure is absolutely fine in a stable environment.

“Come a crisis, the government of the day and Bank of England of the day may prefer the public not to know… to control events in those circumstances,” Griffith-Jones said.

And so the government has controlled information about the auditors’ role in the US.

No one knows whether similar meetings were held between audit leadership and the Federal Reserve Bank and US Treasury.   No one has asked them to testify before a Congressional Committee. When their presence in meetings at Goldman Sachs and AIG, for example, was exposed via emails and correspondence subpoenaed by Congressional investigators, the names were redacted at their request.

Contracts with the Treasury and the New York Federal Reserve Bank are similarly redacted.  We can’t trace whether the audit firm professionals working for the government now are the same ones working for their clients who failed.  We can’t check that those who looked the other way when balance sheets were manipulated and assets valued unrealistically are the same ones now advising how to optimize the value of those same assets for the taxpayer.  We are unable to verify if the same partners who failed us at the banks, at AIG, at Lehman, and at Bear Stearns are now managing their assets for the taxpayer.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.