Financial expert hired to probe top audit firms over loans
The country's main bank auditors are facing yet another investigation into their performance in the financial crisis as a UK expert involved in the Nick Leeson/Barings Bank case is called in.
David Spence, a highly respected accountancy and auditing expert, is to be used by the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (CARB) in a fresh review of how the main audit firms handled the issue of property loans at the banks in 2008.
Mr Spence will assess whether the firms used "appropriate procedures" in their audits when it came to valuing loans. Mr Spence, a partner for many years with Grant Thornton, will also assess whether audit work was carried out in line with accounting standards and legislative provisions.
The probe is separate from work being done by CARB's special investigator John Purcell, who is looking at whether there is a prima facia case to take disciplinary action against Ernst & Young, who audited Anglo Irish Bank before it was nationalised in January 2009.
Mr Spence is an expert in audit, flotations, mergers and acquisitions, litigation and regulatory affairs. He was president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland in 1998/9.
Mr Spence became highly familiar with the Nick Leeson/Barings Bank case in two respects. Firstly he was an expert witness in High Court actions in London and he also gave evidence before the Singapore Public Accountants Board in connection with the Barings collapse.
Leeson was the former derivatives broker arrested in 1995 after his unauthorised speculative trading caused the collapse of Barings, the UK's oldest investment bank. He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.
Mr Spence's review, which takes place under the quality assurance remit, was approved following consultation with the Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority.
Mr Spence will focus specifically on 2008 year end and his report will be issued in the summer. Last week, CARB issued its annual report updating accountant members on where its various investigations rest.
Planned disciplinary action against Sean FitzPatrick, Willie McAteer and David Drumm, all former Anglo Irish executives, is on hold pending the outcome of a joint Garda/Corporate enforcement investigation.
The DPP has received a large volume of material, but no charges have been preferred against any individuals to date.