'Big 4' firms seek liability relief

March 9, 2007 at 12:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- The "Big Four" U.S. accounting firms are lobbying regulators for liability relief in case clients get in trouble for misdeeds, a published report said Friday.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers warn they are vulnerable to big verdicts that could shut them down, The Washington Post reported.

The firms said this would leave publicly traded companies with fewer accountancy choices, driving up costs and throwing investors and markets into disarray, the newspaper said.

The large public accounting firms were once known as the "Big Eight" before a series of mergers. Add to this the collapse of Arthur Andersen after its obstruction-of-justice conviction in the 2001 Enron scandal.

In their bid to win relief from high-stakes court judgments, the big firms have launched a public policy center to spread the word and manage communication.

They also met with Securities and Exchange Commission officials, who are considering ways to create safe harbors to shield auditors from legal liability, the Post said.

Regulators also are considering a strategy that would force companies to take disputes with auditors to an arbitration panel rather than a jury, the newspaper said.

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