Twenty years ago the auditing profession faced its first big existential crisis with the demise of Arthur Andersen. Since then the profession has had various skirmishes with scandal and conflict that have reopened the debate on how best to structure a profession whose fundamental operational currency is public trust.

The year 2019 was a particularly dark one for auditors. The failures of Thomas Cook, Carillion and BHS once again caused the public to ask where the auditors were when it all went wrong. In the aftermath of the failure of Patisserie Valerie, the head of Grant Thornton — which had been the auditors of the failed bakery chain — stated that auditors are not looking for fraud when conducting audits. The natural response from aggrieved politicians was to ask: “So what exactly is the point of the audit?”..

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