Senators Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have reintroduced legislation requiring that formal disciplinary proceedings initiated against accountants by the PCAOB be public. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, such proceedings are non-public unless and until a sanction is entered by the PCAOB and any stay of enforcement of the sanction pending appeal to the SEC is lifted. As the senators’ press release points out, comparable proceedings before the SEC and other financial regulatory agencies are public. According to Senator Reed, “Investors and companies alike should be aware when the auditors and accountants they rely on have been charged or sanctioned for violating professional auditing standards.”
Members and staff of the PCAOB have advocated this change in law for some time, and the legislation was previously introduced in 2011. As with most financial regulatory legislation, the prospects for this bill in the current Congress are at best uncertain.