August 27, 2019 / 5:49 PM / a year ago

SEC fines audit firm RSM $950,000 to settle independence violation claim

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on Tuesday that it fined public accounting firm RSM US LLP $950,000 to settle claims it violated the agency’s auditor independence rules.

The SEC said RSM, which says on its website it is the country’s fifth-largest accounting firm, provided non-audit services to at least 15 of its audit clients, violating rules that bar audit firms from engaging in certain non-audit relationships while an audit is being conducted.

The non-audit services included corporate secretarial services, payment facilitation, payroll outsourcing and investment adviser services, among others.

RSM also failed to disclose its non-audit relationships in more than 100 audit reports for clients published between 2014 and 2015, violating disclosure rules, the SEC said.

RSM did not admit or deny the regulator’s claims.

In addition to the fine, RSM also agreed to employ an independent consultant to evaluate its current quality controls for compliance, the SEC said in a statement.

“The SEC’s auditor independence rules specifically prohibit audit firms from providing certain non-audit services,” said Carolyn M. Welshhans, an official in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Audit firms must put in place procedures, training, and systems that provide a reasonable assurance of independence, and they must monitor for independence on an ongoing basis.”

Terri Andrews, a spokeswomen for RSM US LLP, said the SEC’s order “makes no finding that RSM’s objectivity or impartiality – bedrock elements to auditor independence – were impaired.”

Andrews added that “RSM supports the efforts by the SEC and accounting profession to review the application and impact of the independence rules in the context of performing non-audit services.”

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; editing by Michelle Price and Dan Grebler

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