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Money laundering and other unethical behaviours: Big Four firms between de devil and the deep blue sea

According to a study on account of the European community the international market for statutory audits of large and very large companies is highly concentrated and dominated by the Big-4 networks. The likelihood of new entrants into this market is very limited in the coming years. Additionally, under the current circumstances, middle-tier firms are unlikely to become a major alternative if a Big-4 network fails.

Big Four firms offer two main categories of services: on the one hand audit services and on the other hand advisory services. But in any case they may be auditor and advisor for the same client.

As far as money laundering is concerned, auditors are required by laws and regulations to report suspicions of money laundering.

They are clearly between the devil and the deep blue sea: on the one hand their may be fined if they do not report illegal behaviours; but on the other hand they may loose a client if they do so. In both cases they may loose money and reputation.

There may be a strong ethical problem for the body corporate in the framework of advisory services. Advisory services should only be preventive services but they should not, under any circumstances, help clients resolve the regulatory problems in a curative action regarding money laundering without reporting the illegal behaviour. Otherwise the Body Corporate would have a complicit action with the reputational consequences because it remains anyway an audit firm.

That’s the reason why an independent third party, which does not, under any circumstances, condone money laundering and unethical behaviours in general, would help clients resolve in a pragmatic way the ethical predicament and, where they are regulated by a professional body, would assist them with any disclosures they are compelled to make to the authorities and the regulator to protect the reputation of both auditors and clients


Auditors' liability: Commission publishes independent study on economic impact of current rules (04/10/2006)

Responsabilité des sociétés d'audit: la Commission lance une consultation sur une réforme éventuelle des régimes de responsabilité dans l'UE (18/01/2007)

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