The Securities Appellate Tribunal today allowed Price Waterhouse and its network entities to continue with audit works of existing clients till the end of March 2019.
While refusing to grant a stay on Sebi’s ruling that barred PW and its network entities from taking up new audit work for listed companies, the tribunal modified its order passed on January 19.
The tribunal in its order in January had clarified that PW and its network entities can carry out audit certification of listed companies till March 31, 2018.
Following a hearing today, SAT ruled that PW and its network entities can now carry on with audit certification work for the existing clients till March 31, 2019 or till a new division bench is constituted.
Judicial member Jog Singh would be demitting office on February 19 while Presiding Officer J V Devadhar has already recused himself from hearing the PW matter. Consequently after February 19, there would be only one member to hear the pleas.
After finding it guilty in the multi-crore Satyam fraud, the regulator has restrained PW and its network entities from issuing audit certificates to any listed company in the country for two years. Subsequently, PW and its network firms had moved the tribunal against the regulator’s order and today was the third hearing at SAT.
At today’s hearing, Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for PW, had argued that SAT’s January order was on the premises that the final hearing would be completed by March 2018.
Since Singh would remit office on February 19, hearing of the matter is uncertain till a new bench is constituted, he submitted.
Besides, Rohtagi argued that Sebi’s two-year ban on ten PW network entities should be stayed saying that they are independent legal entities with separate account books from PW Bangalore. The latter had conducted the audit for Satyam Computer Services.
However, Sebi counsel Ravi Kadam said that PW has to be taken as a brand and that investors go by the brand name, adding that these network entities cannot claim to be independent.
On January 10, Sebi imposed a two-year ban on entities/ firms practising as chartered accountants under the brand and banner of PW from directly or indirectly issuing any certificate of audit of listed companies, compliance of obligations of listed companies and intermediaries registered with the regulator.
In its directions today, the two-member bench observed that when the matter was heard by the tribunal on January 19 it was expected that case would be heard on February 13 or couple of days thereafter.
“However, one of us had to go on a leave and therefore the matter was listed to be heard for February 15,” the tribunal said.
“It is realised that the final hearing would take time as one of us is remitting office on February 19 and tomorrow (February 16) is the only working day its not practically possible to decide the matter within a day.”
PW counsel noted that a bulk of PW clients follow fiscal year beginning April 1 while only 7-8 clients follow the calendar year. PTI SSM RAM SBT 15021835 NNNN
Source: Economic Times