KPMG to settle SEC auditing charges for $8.2 million

US accounting firm KPMG violated rules aimed at maintaining auditors’ independence from their clients and will pay $8.2 million to settle the charges, market regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on Friday.

The SEC found that KPMG broke the rules by providing prohibited non-audit services such as bookkeeping, corporate finance and expert services to affiliates of companies whose books they were auditing. 

In addition, the SEC said in a statement, some KPMG personnel also owned stock in companies or affiliates of companies that were KPMG audit clients, in a further violation of the rules designed to ensure auditors maintain objectivity and impartiality in reviewing a client’s books.

KPMG did not admit to or deny the SEC findings but agreed to pay $5.3 million in disgorgement of fees received from the three clients plus interest of $1.2 million and $1.8 million penalty, the SEC said.

“KPMG compromised its role as an independent audit firm by providing prohibited non-audit services to companies that it was supposed to be auditing without any potential conflicts,” John Dugan, associate director for enforcement in the SEC’s Boston regional office, said in the statement.

“Auditors are vital to the integrity of financial reporting, and the mere appearance that they may be conflicted in exercising independent judgment can undermine public confidence in our markets.”

According to the SEC, KPMG repeatedly represented in audit reports through the 2007-2011 period that it was “independent”, despite providing services to three audit clients “that impaired KPMG’s independence.”

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