In: Business and Management

Submitted By shukuraymghani
Words 8674
Pages 35
An assessment of the implications for competition of a cap on auditors' liability

July 2004



This report contains the OFT's advice to Government on the implications for competition in the audit market of proposals to permit auditors to limit their liability by way of negotiated caps.

The current liability position
1.2 At present auditors may not limit their liability for fault due to negligence or incompetence in audit work. Alongside regulation and reputation, liability acts as a discipline on audit quality in a context where shareholders and other third parties rely on information from an audit which is paid for by the company being audited. We are not aware of evidence suggesting that the courts in the UK have made, or are liable to make, excessive damages awards against auditors. Professional indemnity insurance is available, and LLP status – the chosen corporate form of many audit businesses – exists to protect partners' personal assets.

The competition arguments
1.3 It has been argued that a cap on auditors' liability would however be procompetitive because it would lead to: • • • 1.4 a reduction in the barriers to entry and growth facing smaller audit firms the maintenance of competition between larger audit firms, including for non-audit work, and less risk of collapse of one of the Big Four.

On the basis of the evidence available to us, however, none of these arguments appears compelling. First, the current liability position is a minor barrier to entry in comparison to reputation, third party perceptions, economies of scale, global networks, regulation, and various other impediments to the entry and growth of smaller audit firms. The liability position is symmetric as between all audit firms, so the introduction of a cap would not


Office of Fair Trading


appreciably alter the relative…...

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