Despite previous huge failings of which we are all familiar in the audit sector, and despite the systems put in place to try and ensure independence, it is clear this is a still a real problem. In this case, Ernst and Young have been fined $9m in relation to two independence issues, one of which involved client entertainment of $100,000 on holidays and NFL games, by an individual appointed to manage the relationship of a "troubled account". The fine handed down relates to not only individual failures, but failures of other individuals within the firm who were aware of the matters but failed to act on them.
This highlights that whilst prior events have led to auditors putting in place independence systems, ultimately they require disclosure, compliance by employees and action by others where they witness non-compliance by colleagues.
Meanwhile, a third EY partner started a friendship with a chief financial officer whose employer was considered a “troubled account”. The partner, Gregory Bednar, was tasked with mending EY’s relationship with the firm, and ended up taking family holidays with the CFO, accompanying his children to a Green Bay Packers football game, and swapping hundreds of personal text messages. None of this was made clear in the independent audits of the company, the SEC said, and EY failed to act on several red flags about the relationships including entertainment expenses totalling $100,000.