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The auditor liability and financial crisis

Discuss about the Auditing and Assurance for Actions and Interventions.

In the period of 2008, the entire world faced a crisis due to subprime mortgage that is to lend money to a group of people having difficulty maintaining the repayment schedule. This led to extensive financial and economic reform in the global market. Habib, A., Uddin Bhuiyan et al. (2013) mentioned that the prime reason of global financial crisis is that the majority of the US investors have lost confidence in the value of sub-prime mortgages that eventually caused liquidity crisis in the global market. As a result, it has induced US Federal Bank to inject huge amount of capital into the financial market (Geiger et al. 2013). It has made stock market highly volatile in nature that has made, which has created adverse impact on the confidence level of the investors even further (Mala and Chand 2012). The auditing includes proper evaluation of the financial statements to assess possible future impact on the market. In this report, the focus will be on the evaluation of auditor liability on the financial crisis. The report will focus on highlighting the organizations that faced challenges associated with the bankruptcy to provide a clear idea about the liability of the auditors. For that reason, the report will focus on different prime accounting firms like Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Chrysler LLC and General Motors to highlight the liability of auditors on global financial crisis.     

As per the article by Fratzscher (2012) financial crisis represent a situation, where a nation suddenly loses a significant amount of nominal value that not only results in banking panics but in recession also. Financial crisis can also be considered as an opportunity to rectify certain aspects of present financial system. A salient feature of the 2008 global financial crisis is that it has been developed by the financialisation of USA economy that has created abundance of credit in the market. As a result, it has influenced accounting firms to take excessive risks through several complex financial instruments. Therefore, it is necessary to identify any type of short-term solution solutions to reduce the amount of adverse impact of the global crisis. Now, auditor’s responsibility is to plan and perform different types of financial statements to provide an idea to counter the problems associated with global financial crisis. Haas and Lelyveld (2014) portrays that liability of financial auditors is related to the process through which it requires adjustments or corrections to be made on the financial statements. Therefore, auditors need to adopt several corresponding adjustments in the financial statements in an appropriate manner. Thus, it highlights the fact that auditors have direct liability regarding the compliance with reporting of accounts.

Impact of global financial crisis on prime accounting firms

In 2008, housing market in USA suffered significantly, as several sub-prime owners who have opted for sub-prime loans have identified that they were not able to meet their required mortgage repayment (Geiger et al. 2013). Many studies have highlighted that the value of homes have dropped in a significant manner that are creating negative equity for the borrowers. As a result, huge numbers of home loan borrowers have defaulted on loans, which were influenced financial institutions to repossess all the lands and houses. It has directly increased the liquidity crisis issues that banks have to face at that point of time. This sub-prime lending bubble bursts are commonly referred as credit crunch (Krishnan and Zhang 2014). The collapse of housing loans in the USA market is primarily referred to as the trigger for the financial crisis. For that reason, many studies have highlighted the significance of better regulations in the financial systems to handle such type of issues in an appropriate manner. Specifically, 2008 financial crisis has highlighted the fact that rules and regulation had to be implemented in the financial system to discourage any type of unscrupulous lending in an effective way.

As per the article by Erkens, Hung and Matos (2012), prime reason for the financial crisis in the home loan market is that the auditors have neglected the unstructured lending procedure. As a result, it has helped different financial organizations to focus on utilizing unstructured lending procedure. Furthermore, auditors have faced huge amount of criticism related to independence of audits, as they seeks for their self-interest. Dimitriou, Kenourgios and Simos (2013) have highlighted the fact that auditors’ responsibilities are significantly augmented at the time of global financial crisis. The dominance of biggest four auditors Ernst & Young, KPMG, PWC and Deloitte have increased the probability of restricted competition and choice in the global market. The auditors had to pass judgement on some of the practices, which caused the huge losses that lead to government bailouts. However, Cukierman (2013) have highlighted that the auditors were not involved in many of the prime causes of the crisis that includes investing decisions, bad lending, flaws in credit-rating system and lack of understanding of risks. Thus, it highlights the fact that auditors are not responsible for the dumb business moves of the business entities. In fact, auditors just make sure that the moves are not disclosed properly. It has been assessed that accounting firms were at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, it has also created massive impact on the relationship between organizations and their auditors. In fact, the financial crisis in 2008 has induced organizations to audit the financial statement to prevent any type of errors or fraud cases in an appropriate way. As per the article by Taylor (2013), each big auditing firm had clients that needed lot of government bailouts or blew up or questionable practices at the time of crisis. Therefore, auditing firms has to face different types of pressure at the time of suggesting the right path for clients. Furthermore, auditing standards also needs auditors to perform all the responsibilities of auditing procedure designed to achieve proper audience evidence so that it can fulfil all the requirements in an appropriate manner.

Impact of financial crisis on Lehman Brothers

As mentioned earlier, 2008 global financial crisis has their prime impacts on several accounting firms. Different accounting firms have struggled to maintain their profit at the expected level for countering the adverse impact of financial crisis in an effective way. Organizations like General Motors, Washington Mutual and Chrysler LLC has faced huge amount of challenges to sustain its position in the market (Antonia García-Benau, Sierra-Garcia and Zorio 2013). However, the adverse impact of 2008 financial crisis has its maximum effect on Lehman Brothers, as it had to dissolve from the market. The details of the global financial crisis impact are provided as follows:

Lehman Brothers was a global financial services provider that has been declared bankrupt in 2008 due to financial crisis. The organization was considered as the fourth largest investment bank in USA. As the organization prospered over the decades in the US economy, it has become an international powerhouse. However, Lehman Brothers has to face different types of challenges in order to conducting the business in an appropriate manner. In the year of 2004, housing market in USA has seen boom or bubble in a significant manner (Baxter et al. 2013). As a result, Lehman Brothers have acquired five mortgage lenders namely Aurora loan services and BNC Mortgage that are specialized in providing loans for the housing market. The acquisition strategy of Lehman Brothers have initially provided huge amount of revenues in the capital market. As a result, Lehman Brothers have grown comparatively faster than any other asset management or investment banking organizations. In 2006, Lehman Brother has mortgaged around $146 billion, which is around 10% higher than the previous year. However, during the period of 2005 to 2007, Lehman Brothers have maintained consistent profit level (Sikka 2015).

However, as the credit crisis has happened in the market, two Bear Stearns hedge funds has failed very badly. As a result, Lehman Brother’s stock has felt very sharply, which has induced organization to eliminate around 2500 mortgage related jobs. Furthermore, it also has induced Lehman Brothers to shut down its BNC unit. As per the article by Chodorow-Reich (2014) Lehman Brothers have underwrote more mortgage backed securities compared to any other organization, accumulating around $85 billion portfolio, which four time more of its shareholders equity. During the last quarter of 2007, global market equity has reached new highs that have temporarily rebound the entire fixed income assets. As per the article by Bengtsson (2013) high degree of leverage and huge amount of portfolio mortgage securities has made businesses of Lehman Brothers increasingly vulnerable. After the collapse of Bear Stearns, the share value of Lehman Brothers have fell around 48%, which has unstable the business the entire business procedure. However, Lehman Brother has issued preferred stock to recover around $4 billion through the market. Haldane (2013) has mentioned that Lehman Brothers have made several unsuccessful overtures to the different potential partners. The Stock level fall around 77% in the first week of September 2008, that has induced organizations towards the dissolve situation. Thus, the bottom line is that the collapse of Lehman Brothers has continued for weeks in the financial market (Habib, Uddin Bhuiyan and Islam 2013). It highlighted the fact that auditors of the organization has able to provide very little clue regarding the future challenges of utilizing unstructured lending process.

As per the article by Xu et al. (2013) Lehman Brothers is not the only accounting firm that has affected by the global financial crisis. In fact, it has created adverse impact on almost all the top accounting firms in a major way. For instance, Washington Mutual along with all its subsidiaries has to face bankruptcy on September 26, 2008. The organization has been delisted from the trading of New York stock exchange immediately. Washington Mutual has able to sustain just one more week compared to Lehman Brothers are global financial crisis has changed the business environment. Thus, it has highlighted the fact that the auditors have not performed all their responsibilities in an appropriate way. Many studies have highlighted accounting inadequacies and problems as the prime issue for the two prime accounting firm dissolved process (Dias et al. 2016). The failure of auditing industry to highlight the banking crisis is regarded as one of the prime reasons of financial crisis happens in 2008. For instance, Lehman Brothers auditor Ernst and Young was very much aware about the Repo 105 practice but has not questioned Lehman’s failure to disclose publicly. Similarly, PWC and AIG auditor also has practiced similar type of strategies that eventually increases the magnitude of global financial crisis. As a result, the entire risk management procedure of auditors during the risk management procedure has been questioned in a significant manner.

Geiger, Raghunandan and Riccardi (2013) have mentioned that it is not right to blame auditors only regarding the occurrence of global financial crisis. Furthermore, the global crisis has created new challenges for the auditors like indefinite-lived intangible assets, recorded values of goodwill and other long-lived assets at the time of financial crisis. For that reason, it has become necessary for the auditors to test client organization’s decision regarding the measurement and timing of specific items to avoid any type of failure to detect misstatements of materials properly. Due to the significance of global financial crisis, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) has tried to evaluate all the audit risk areas affected by financial and economical crisis so that it can reduce the adverse impact of financial crisis in an appropriate way.

As per the article by Kakabadse et al. (2013) several macroeconomic factors like low inflation, low interest rate, high risk taking and growing imbalance have played major role in financial crisis occurred in 2008. Thus, it has been assessed the auditors have not able to measure all these factors in an appropriate way. For that reason, financial institutions or investment banks have unable to get any idea regarding the possible future challenges. In fact, organizations like Lehman brother, general Motors and Washington Mutual are actually focusing on to invest more or taking on more market risks to gain competitive advantage in the market (Liu, Uchida and Yang 2012). The initiated high-risk strategies of these organizations have provided huge amount of profits at the initial stages. For that reason, these organizations have felt that the market is growing in a huge way. Thus, they have failed to identify the bubble burst impact completely, which can be described as the failure of the auditors.

The above discussion has highlighted the fact that auditors have failed to fulfil all their responsibilities in an appropriate manner, which has increases the magnitude of financial crisis. Therefore, it has become necessary for the auditors to focus on the development of specific strategy for the clients so that they do not have to face such consequences in future. For instance, all the auditors need to be prohibited from any type of tax advisory services, internal audit and advice to the risk committee. Furthermore, the financial crisis in 2008 has highlighted the fact that presence of only four major players in the auditing industry has increases the probability of improper utilization of financial statements, which has increased the probability of financial crisis. Therefore, it is necessary for the global economy to provide opportunity to the small or medium auditing firms to balance demand and supply side in an effective way. Therefore, it will reduce the amount of risk associated with the audit concentration process.  Thus, development of competitive market in the auditing industry can be beneficial.       

Auditors can opt for providing accurate information to local communal for three prong strategies that are- easy credit and cheaper dollars, lower interest and lower taxes. It s evident that as soon as the dollars become cheap, housing sector started purchasing estates and other products that on the other hand enhances the recruitment in many sectors like in construction industry for formulating buildings.  Auditors are also liable for overseeing a company's internal controls in order to prevent misstatements or fraud. In the given scenario, it might be the case that the auditors do not inform the banking companies whether they had sufficient internal controls regarding giving loans to communal. Thus, auditors are recommended to remain unbiased and share all the crucial information realted to internal monetary controls according to the economy of the nation.

Conclusion:

mAfter the evaluation of the scale of the global financial crisis and its impact on the taxpayers in different countries, the role of the accountants and auditors should be questioned. The 2008 global financial crisis has highlighted the fact that auditors have not performed their responsibilities at the desired level, which has caused billions of assets in the global economy. Despite that, not a single business unit has argued that audit itself is an unnecessary process for the larger companies. An example of the impact of the financial crisis is seen on Lehman Brothers, who struggled to maintain their profit at the expected level. The challenges from the financial crisis are that several organizational had to face difficulty in sustaining their position and some of them had to dissolve from the market. It is also concluded form the assignment that Lehman Brothers acquired five mortgage lenders and some of the lenders like BNC unit performed poorly that results in complete shutdown of the unit and falling of the share value. In fact, ACCA believe that role of auditors is going to increase further after the occurrence of global financial crisis. It highlighted the fact that auditors need to play significant role in developing trust regarding the financial statement of the organizations so that investors can invest larger amount in an appropriate manner. For that reason, competition level in the auditing industry needs to be extended to a certain level so that all the business entities feel the importance of highlighting the actual picture in front of public.

References:

Antonia García-Benau, M., Sierra-Garcia, L. and Zorio, A., 2013. Financial crisis impact on sustainability reporting. Management decision, 51(7), pp.1528-1542.

Baxter, R., Bedard, J.C., Hoitash, R. and Yezegel, A., 2013. Enterprise risk management program quality: Determinants, value relevance, and the financial crisis. Contemporary Accounting Research, 30(4), pp.1264-1295.

Bengtsson, E., 2013. Shadow banking and financial stability: European money market funds in the global financial crisis. Journal of International Money and Finance, 32, pp.579-594.

Chodorow-Reich, G., 2014. The employment effects of credit market disruptions: Firm-level evidence from the 2008–9 financial crisis. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(1), pp.1-59.

Cukierman, A., 2013. Monetary policy and institutions before, during, and after the global financial crisis. Journal of Financial Stability, 9(3), pp.373-384.

Dias, A., Dias, A., Rodrigues, L.L., Rodrigues, L.L., Craig, R. and Craig, R., 2016. Global financial crisis and corporate social responsibility disclosure. Social Responsibility Journal, 12(4), pp.654-671.

Dimitriou, D., Kenourgios, D. and Simos, T., 2013. Global financial crisis and emerging stock market contagion: A multivariate FIAPARCH–DCC approach. International Review of Financial Analysis, 30, pp.46-56.

Erkens, D.H., Hung, M. and Matos, P., 2012. Corporate governance in the 2007–2008 financial crisis: Evidence from financial institutions worldwide. Journal of Corporate Finance, 18(2), pp.389-411.

Fratzscher, M., 2012. Capital flows, push versus pull factors and the global financial crisis. Journal of International Economics, 88(2), pp.341-356.

Geiger, M.A., Raghunandan, K. and Riccardi, W., 2013. The global financial crisis: US bankruptcies and going-concern audit opinions. Accounting Horizons, 28(1), pp.59-75.

Haas, R. and Lelyveld, I., 2014. Multinational banks and the global financial crisis: Weathering the perfect storm?. Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, 46(s1), pp.333-364.

Habib, A., Uddin Bhuiyan, B. and Islam, A., 2013. Financial distress, earnings management and market pricing of accruals during the global financial crisis. Managerial Finance, 39(2), pp.155-180.

Haldane, A.G., 2013. Rethinking the financial network. In Fragile stabilität–stabile fragilität (pp. 243-278). Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

Kakabadse, A., Kouzmin, A., Kakabadse, N.K. and Mouraviev, N., 2013. Auditing Moral Hazards for the Post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) Leadership. In State Crimes Against Democracy (pp. 79-106). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Krishnan, G.V. and Zhang, Y., 2014. Is there a relation between audit fee cuts during the global financial crisis and banks’ financial reporting quality?. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 33(3), pp.279-300.

Liu, C., Uchida, K. and Yang, Y., 2012. Corporate governance and firm value during the global financial crisis: Evidence from China. International Review of Financial Analysis, 21, pp.70-80.

Mala, R. and Chand, P., 2012. Effect of the global financial crisis on accounting convergence. Accounting & Finance, 52(1), pp.21-46.

Sikka, P., 2015, March. The corrosive effects of neoliberalism on the UK financial crises and auditing practices: A dead-end for reforms. In Accounting Forum (Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 1-18). Elsevier.

Taylor, J.B., 2013. Getting off track: How government actions and interventions caused, prolonged, and worsened the financial crisis. Hoover Press.

Xu, Y., Carson, E., Fargher, N. and Jiang, L., 2013. Responses by Australian auditors to the global financial crisis. Accounting & Finance, 53(1), pp.301-338.

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