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5 Things that mattered 2/9/2018

A round up of the last week's most important events affecting finance directors including the record £4m imposed on accountancy firm Grant Thornton for ethical breaches.

Big Four audit rethink

The UK’s accountancy profession says it is willing to consider placing temporary limits on the number of listed audit clients the Big Four accounting firms can have as a way of staving off a second formal competition review in seven years.

The significant concession comes on the back of a string of accounting scandals at large international companies including Tesco, BT, General Electric and Wells Fargo that have heavily undermined confidence in the profession.

Critics are increasingly concerned that the Big Four are too dominant, audit quality is too low and the wider industry is too conflicted as most firms offer both audit and consulting work to clients.

Toyota and Uber deal

Japanese carmaker Toyota says it is investing $500m (£387m) in Uber and expand a partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars.

The firm said this would involve the “mass-production” of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed on Uber’s ride sharing network.

It is being viewed as a way for both firms to catch up with rivals in the competitive driverless car market.

No-deal Brexit risk grows

“The risk of a hard [no-deal] Brexit is growing by the day,” says Joachim Lang, the head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), in a wide-ranging interview with the Rheinische Post newspaper. “Every business would do well to prepare for this worst-case scenario.”

Pensions Regulator warning

The Pensions Regulator urges 14 company retirement schemes to consider cutting the cash offers made to members to give up their “gold standard” benefits, amid concern that “overly generous” payouts could damage the remaining funds.

The amount of money flowing out of company “defined benefit” schemes reached a record of £21bn  over the past year, as tens of thousands of current and former workers converted their future retirement income stream into a cash lump sum.

Record fine over ethical breaches

Grant Thornton has been fined a record £4 million for serious ethical breaches after it allowed one of its former partners, who was still employed as a consultant by the firm, to join the audit committees of two of its clients, Nichols, the maker of Vimto, and the University of Salford.

The conflict of interest created by Eric Healey, who was a senior partner at Grant Thornton before he left in 2009, created “serious familiarity and self-interest threats” and resulted in the “loss of independence” in eight audits over four years.

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