On September 29, 2023, the Securities and Trade Fee (SEC) introduced authorized expenses in opposition to the worldwide accounting agency Prager Metis CPAs, LLC and its Californian counterpart, Prager Metis CPAs LLP (collectively known as Prager), for alleged violations of auditor independence guidelines and for supposedly aiding and abetting their shoppers in breaching federal securities legal guidelines. The complaints pointed to improper conduct over roughly three years, from December 2017 to October 2020, throughout which Prager was alleged to have included indemnification clauses in engagement letters for greater than 200 audit-related assignments, thereby compromising its independence as required by federal securities legal guidelines.
Prager’s alleged misconduct concerned repeatedly signing engagement letters with indemnification clauses and issuing “accountant’s stories” purporting independence, regardless of senior companions being notified that such actions jeopardized the agency’s independence. The SEC criticism means that a lot of Prager’s shoppers included these “accountant’s stories” of their SEC filings, and accuses Prager of not advising its shoppers about these violations even after being knowledgeable by the Public Firm Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) that such actions had been in violation of federal legal guidelines regarding auditor independence.
The SEC’s motion in opposition to Prager good points extra significance contemplating the agency’s prior engagement with cryptocurrency alternate FTX earlier than the latter filed for Chapter 11 chapter in November 2022. Prager Metis offered audit and tax preparation companies to FTX, a notable engagement revealed in earlier court docket paperwork. Though the SEC’s criticism didn’t particularly title FTX, it highlighted “lots of” of auditor independence violations over a span of practically three years.
The case underscores the stringent auditor independence framework that stops an auditor from offering extra companies which may pose a battle of curiosity. Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Workplace, emphasised the significance of auditor independence in safeguarding monetary reporting integrity and fostering public belief.
The SEC’s criticism seeks a everlasting injunction, disgorgement plus prejudgment curiosity, and a civil financial penalty in opposition to Prager, marking a stern reminder for auditing corporations in regards to the essential significance of adhering to federal legal guidelines and rules regarding auditor independence.
Moreover, the authorized scrutiny extends past Prager Metis. A latest submitting on September 21 revealed that the regulation agency Fenwick & West, which had earlier engagements with FTX, can be below investigation. The plaintiffs argue that Fenwick & West ought to be held partially liable for FTX’s downfall resulting from alleged over-extension in service choices to the alternate.