2021-03-30

Förslag till förändrade regler för bolagsstyrning i Storbritannien kan påverka framtidens revision

Den brittiska regeringen har lämnat förslag till förändrade regler för bolagsstyrning och revision i Storbritannien. Förslagen kan få stor påverkan i Storbritannien men även på det arbete som sker på EU-nivå och därmed Sverige.

– Det handlar om hela ekosystemet inom bolagsstyrning där revision är en av delarna, det kan få stor påverkan på vår bransch och framtidens revision, så frågan har hög prioritet, säger Karin Apelman, generalsekreterare och vd i FAR.

Den 18 mars presenterade den brittiska regeringen slutligen sitt förslag till förändrade regler och krav på bolagsstyrning, revision och tillsyn i Storbritannien. Förslaget baseras på de utredningar* (Kingman, Brydon och CMA) som tillsattes i kölvattnet av några högprofilerade företagskollapser, bland annat BHS (2016) och Carillion (2018). Syftet är att återupprätta förtroendet för bolagsstyrning och revision i Storbritannien.

Långtgående konsekvenser

Om förslaget, som innehåller 155 detaljerade förslag, genomförs kommer det få mycket långtgående konsekvenser för såväl bolagsstyrning som för revision i Storbritannien och där revision utgör en betydande del. Förslaget är nu ute på en kort remissrunda (16 v) för att sedan bearbetas och inarbetas i lagar, regelverk och tillsyn m.m. Något specifikt ikraftträdandedatum finns inte utan förändringarna kommer sannolikt introduceras etappvis där rådande situation (covid-19) och förslagens omfattning/påverkan i viss mån kommer styra när de genomförs.

– FAR tittar för närvarande på hur vi ska ställa oss till att lämna remissvar, sannolikt kommer det att ske via Accountancy Europe, säger Karin Apelman.

Ny tillsynsmyndighet

Ett av de första förslagen som kommer genomföras är etablerandet av en ny tillsynsmyndighet i Storbritannien; Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA) som ska ersätta Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

Även om förslagen avser bolagsstyrning och revision i Storbritannien kan det naturligtvis inte uteslutas att de kommer vara föremål för bland annat kommissionens intresse i exempelvis pågående översyn av regelverk för revision.

*Sir John Kingman’s Independent review of the Financial Reporting Council, the Competition and Market Authority’s statutory audit market study, samt Sir Donald Brydon’s independent review of the quality and effectiveness of audit.

Kortfattad sammanfattning på engelska av förslagen, vilken ställts samman av Martin Manuzzi på ICAEW Institute for Chartered Accountants England and Wales.

Public Interest Entities

  • Including other types of entities in a new Public Interest Entity (PIE) definition, including third-sector entities with a public benefit purpose.

Directors’ accountability for internal controls, dividends and capital maintenance

  • On internal controls, requiring directors to carry out a review of the effectiveness of their company’s internal controls each year and make a statement as to whether they consider them to have operated effectively. Additionally, whether the statement should be assured by an external auditor.

  • On dividends and capital maintenance, requiring companies to disclose the total amount of reserves that are distributable, or the “known” distributable reserve if not possible, which must be greater than any proposed dividend. Additionally, whether directors should state that any proposed dividend is within know distributable reserves and that its payment would not threaten solvency of the company over next two years in directors’ reasonable expectation.

New corporate reporting on resilience, assurance and payment practices

  • Requiring directors of PIEs to issue an annual Resilience Statement, setting out how they are assessing the company’s prospects and addressing challenges to its business model over the short, medium and long-term, including risks posed by climate change

  • Requiring directors of PIEs to issue an Audit and Assurance Policy, describing their approach (over a rolling three year forward look) to seeking internal and external assurance of the information they report to shareholders, including any external assurance planned beyond the scope of the annual statutory audit.

  • Requiring PIE annual reports to include a certain minimum reporting on supplier payment policies and practices.

Strengthening the supervision of corporate reporting

  • Giving the new regulator powers to direct changes to company reports and accounts, rather than having to seek a court order which is the position at the moment.

  • Increasing the transparency of the existing Corporate Reporting Review process by enabling the new regulator to publish summary findings following a review and, if necessary, full correspondence.

  • Extending the Corporate Reporting Review process to the whole of the annual report and accounts.

Company directors

  • Giving the audit regulator investigation and enforcement powers in relation to wrongdoing by directors of PIEs.

  • Strengthening the malus and clawback provisions within executive directors’ remuneration arrangements.

Audit purpose and scope

  • Establishing a new corporate auditing profession to operate independently of the professional accountancy bodies.

  • Introducing new overarching principles for auditors, to reinforce good audit practice.

  • Introducing a new duty on auditors to take a wider range of information into account in reaching audit judgements, in particular whether financial statements give a ‘true and fair view.’

  • Introducing new obligations on both auditors and directors relating to the detection and prevention of material fraud.

Audit committee oversight and engagement with shareholders

  • Giving the regulator new powers to set and enforce additional requirements for audit committees in the appointment and oversight of auditors, aimed at increased audit quality and applying to audit committees at FTSE350 companies.

  • Introducing measures to encourage and facilitate more meaningful engagement between a company and its shareholders on matters affecting audit quality, including a formal mechanism by which shareholders can propose additional matters of emphasis within the scope of the company’s external audit.

Competition, choice and resilience in the audit market

  • Introducing greater regulatory powers and duties intended to increase choice and competition in the FTSE 350 audit market, initially through a managed shared audit regime and, if needed, taking a reserve power for a managed market share cap.

  • Requiring operational separation between the audit and non-audit arms of certain firms, as determined by the new regulator. This will include separate governance, financial statements prepared on an arm’s length basis, and regulatory oversight of audit partner remuneration and audit practice governance.

  • Giving the regulator statutory powers to proactively monitor the resilience of the audit market and audit firms, including powers to require audit firms to address any viability concerns that are identified. The regulator will also have the power to take enforcement action to address anti-competitive practices and an abuse of dominant position within the statutory audit market.

The supervision of audit quality

  • Making the new regulator responsible for approving statutory auditors of public interest entities, rather than the professional bodies.

  • Improving the transparency of the regulator’s Audit Quality Review reports on individual audits, while providing safeguards for sensitive information.

  • Providing the regulator with new powers to require a UK Group auditor to arrange access to overseas component auditors’ working papers, where considered appropriate.

  • How the regulator might access information covered by an audited entity’s legal professional privilege that is needed for the regulator’s inspections and investigations of statutory audit.

A strengthened regulator

  • Replacing the FRC with ARGA and establishing it as a company limited by guarantee with the general objective of protecting and promoting the interests of investors, other users of corporate reporting, and the wider public interest.

  • Funding ARGA through a statutory levy, replacing the current voluntary levy.

  • Giving the regulator a new statutory role in the supervision of accountants and actuaries, replacing more informal arrangements.

  • Giving the regulator a more pro-active role in identifying and assessing serious issues relating to a company’s corporate reporting or audit by strengthening the regulator’s information gathering and investigatory powers.

Links to documents

  • Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance - Consultation on the government’s proposals (link)

  • Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance - Impact Assessment (link)

  • Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance - Supplementary publication on review recommendations (link)

  • CMA Market Study on statutory audit services - Summary of responses (link)