Chinese units of "Big Four" global auditors settle dispute with SEC

February 8, 2015 10:03 am 

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — The Chinese affiliates of the "Big Four" global accounting firms agreed to pay a total of 2 million U.S. dollars to settle a long-running dispute with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over their reluctance to turn over documents related to investigations of potential fraud, the SEC announced Friday.

The Chinese-based units of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, KPMG and Ernst & Young each agreed to pay 500,000 dollars and take specific steps to provide documents to SEC investigators over the next four years, the SEC said in a statement.

The settlement follows a ruling by the SEC last year recommending the suspension of the Chinese affiliates of the Big Four firms for six months, which could have affected hundreds of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. and U.S. multinational companies operating in China.

Antonia Chion, Associate Director of the SEC's Enforcement Division said "The settlement provides a path forward for obtaining productions and enhanced future cooperation from the Big Four firms."

As part of the settlement, the Chinese affiliates admitted that they did not produce documents before the SEC started administrative proceedings against them in 2012, but didn't admit or deny other findings in the order, the SEC said.

The four Chinese affiliates said in a joint statement that they were pleased to have reached the settlement with the SEC. "The firms' ability to continue to serve all their respective clients is not affected by this settlement," they said.

The dispute began in 2012 after the SEC filed lawsuits against the Chinese affiliates of the Big Four auditors for their refusal to provide audit work documents related to China-based companies under investigation for potential accountancy fraud. The firms said providing such access would violate Chinese law.

China and the U.S. have been trying to find a solution, with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) signing a memorandum with Chinese regulators on the exchange of documents related to investigations in either country in May 2013. (PNA/Xinhua)

LAM/SSC

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