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By Jim Peterson

The post-Enron disintegration of Arthur Andersen in 2002 lowered the variety of overseas accounting organizations that audit the majority of the world's greatest public businesses to the surviving significant 4 -- Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC. regardless of industry dominance, double-digit annual development and annual international profit above $120 billion in 2014 - the viability of the massive 4 and their enterprise version faces critical threats:- common dissatisfaction with the traditional shape and language in their middle product -- the normal "pass-fail" auditor's file. - The power "expectations hole" among their perceived functionality caliber and the acknowledged wishes of knowledge clients. - and particularly, the questionable skill of the massive 4 and their companions to outlive a "black swan" monetary surprise - a litigation judgment or legislations enforcement sanction at the scale that destroyed Arthur Andersen. count number Down seems on the complicated demanding situations dealing with the massive 4, questions the feasibility and achievability of many of the proffered "solutions", and proposes an advanced version for giant Audit that may be either sustainable for the big companies and healthy to serve the capital markets of the twenty first century.

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Extra resources for Count Down: The Past, Present and Uncertain Future of the Big Four Accounting Firms

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Their major working capital needs À employee salaries, space costs, and technology and methodology investments À are financed out of the short-term cash stream of client-derived revenues. 2. The income tax codes of the largest economies are cash-based for partnerships, creating a powerful incentive for the firms to distribute substantially all their current profits out to the partners to match with their tax liabilities. 3. And, there being no alternative need or opportunity for the deployment of excess capital or outside investment, under the firms’ current business models, idle cash would serve only to whet the appetites of the litigation sharks circling in the feeding tanks.

Assurance À the work of auditors À was also required early. Tax collections on behalf of king or pharaoh involved verification of crop yields, herd sizes and slave holdings. Some trusted functionary was needed, to do the counting. Matters remained straightforward if evolving for centuries. Kings and princes in Europe financed their political and military ambitions through lenders in the Mediterranean city-states, sitting at their benches À the bancs À hence the modern term. And whether by ship or caravan, foreign trade ventures were one-off undertakings with simple bookkeeping.

Where PwC audits the lion’s share of big companies in Britain, EY is the leader in France; in Germany it is KPMG, and in Spain it is Deloitte. Because of that uneven distribution of personnel and expertise, loss of any one of these networks would eliminate auditor availability for a significant population of global companies. The Attitude of the Regulators Consider this question: What might happen when one of the Big Four disintegrates? Regulators around the world have been squeamish to the point of denial.

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