A US judge has ordered Chinese units of the “Big Four” global accounting firms to be suspended from auditing US-traded companies for six months, saying they “willfully violated” US laws.
The 112-page ruling by US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) administrative law judge Cameron Elliot could temporarily leave more than 100 Chinese companies quoted on US markets without an auditor and unable to trade.
The auditors and a fifth China-based accounting firm fell foul of the law by refusing to turn over documents about some of their clients to the commission, which wanted help in a fraud probe, Elliot ruled.
The ruling does not take effect immediately and the companies plan to launch an appeal with the SEC.
“The firms note that the decision is neither final nor legally effective unless and until reviewed and approved by the full US SEC Commission. The firms intend to appeal and thereby initiate that review without delay,” they said in a joint statement.
China’s stock market regulator, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, expressed “profound regret” over the SEC decision Friday.
“This ruling does not take into account Chinese efforts to hand over audit documents,” spokesman Deng Ge told reporters.
If the ruling stands, not only will the Chinese companies be left with no auditor but it could also hamper the audits of US multinationals with significant operations in China.
This is because the Chinese affiliates of the Big Four