As you may recall, auditors of large accelerated filers will be required to report on CAMs—critical audit matters—in their auditor’s reports for fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019 and in auditor’s reports for all other companies (except EGCs) to which the requirements apply for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2020. (See this PubCo post.) As SEC Commissioner Kara Stein observed in her statement on approval of the new rule, the new “standard marks the first significant change to the auditor’s report in more than 70 years.” In Europe, a similar concept has been in operation since 2016: “key audit matters.” What has been the experience so far?
This study conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants reports on the results of a year of international reporting of “key audit matters,” the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board’s analog to “critical audit matters” in the U.S. The study looked at 560 audit reports across 11 countries. These types of studies may provide some useful insights for companies in the U.S.: disclosure of “critical audit matters” will be required as part of the auditor’s report in the U.S. for audits of fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019 (for large accelerated filers) and December 15, 2020 (for all other companies to which the requirements apply). According to the study, financial reporting improved following the adoption of KAMs in 2016. Not only did the disclosures themselves provide better information, but the study saw improvements in governance, audit quality and corporate reporting.