Reed, Grassley look to pry open disciplinary proceedings against auditors

The PCAOB was created under the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law, and was a reaction to the accounting scandals at Enron and other companies. The board oversees companies that audit public companies and has the authority to sanction these auditors when they fail to meet established standards.

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But Reed and Grassley argue that keeping disciplinary hearings private is unfair to investors and companies who rely on auditors who might be subject to PCAOB oversight. Reed said senators were made aware of one example in which an auditor was subject to a disciplinary proceeding by the board but continued to issue audit reports for other companies.

"Those public companies and their investors were completely in the dark about the board's decision to both institute disciplinary proceedings and about the progress of those proceedings," Reed said. "The auditor knew about the proceedings, but the investors and public companies were denied information that was arguably very relevant to the audit relationship."

Reed also noted that PCAOB Chairman James Doty told senators earlier this year that the secrecy of board proceedings "has a variety of unfortunate consequences," including that investors are not made aware of these issues and how they might affect their investments.

The bill is S. 1907.