Sino-US audit oversight co-op faces difficulties

Updated: 2011-08-11 09:32


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BEIJING -- Despite efforts of both sides, cross-border audit oversight between China and the United States faces difficulties over sovereignty concerns and system differences, analysts said.

The current bilateral negotiations may lead nowhere, said Liang Jian, analyst with iChinaStock, a website dedicated to analysis of Chinese companies listed abroad.

The two countries have different regulatory views that makes cooperation quite difficult, said Violet Ho, managing director at Kroll, an international investigative company, on Wednesday.

In the United States, companies can get listed relatively easily but face strict supervision after being listed regarding information disclosure, Ho said, while in China becoming listed is an arduous process due to high entry standards, yet once companies are listed supervision is relatively loose.

Despite the difficulties, the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) still pins hope on future cooperation, and it has invited the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to a second round of talks in the United States. The PCAOB announced that CSRC had accepted its invitation, which will likely be held in autumn.

The CSRC said on Monday in a press release that officials from China and United States have pledged to increase cooperation on cross-border audit oversight in the wake of a string of accounting scandals of US-listed Chinese companies.

The two sides last met at the Sino-US Symposium on Audit Oversight held in Beijing from July 11 to 12, with attendance of officials of CSRC, the Chinese Ministry of Finance, the PCAOB, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Although the symposium purported to be "an important step toward Sino-US cooperation on audit oversight of public companies," it actually produced no official agreement.

PCAOB has been seeking to cooperate with the CSRC in audit oversight since 2007, but no real progress has been made and concern over Chinese sovereignty was a major reason, analysts said.

PCAOB board member Lewis Ferguson said he recognizes the concern over sovereignty, but it's an issue that can be handled, and cited agreements reached with other nations over the same concerns.

"We have signed protocols with 35 countries and each has such concerns," Ferguson said at the symposium. "The goal is to set up a joint oversight mechanism in a way that fully protects Chinese sovereignty."