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ashington (Jan. 15, 2002) - Big Five accounting firm KPMG is in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which censured the firm for violating auditor independence rules.
In a clear violation of the rules, KPMG held a "substantial investment" of more than $25 million in the Short-Term Investments Trust, a money market fund in the AIM family of funds. At the same time, KPMG was auditing Short-Term's financial statements.
The SEC said that KPMG repeatedly confirmed its independence from the AIM funds it audited during the entire time it was invested in STIT. KPMG consented to the order without admitting or denying the charges, and was not fined for the breach.
"This case illustrates the dangers that flow from a failure to implement adequate policies and procedures designed to detect and prevent auditor independence violations," said Paul Berger, the SEC's associate director of enforcement.
The SEC said that KPMG had no policies in place that KPMG audit engagement partners could have used to confirm the firm's independence from its audit client. "KPMG's lack of adequate policies and procedures constituted an extreme departure from the standards of ordinary care, and resulted in violation of the auditor independence requirements imposed by the SEC's rules and by Generally Accepted Auditing Standards," the SEC said in a statement.
In addition to the censure, the SEC has ordered KPMG to take steps to prevent and detect any future violations.
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