London — After a string of embarrassing failures, the Big Four accounting firms are turning to the thesaurus for help. In describing the companies they audit, the word “client” is out of favour and auditors are looking for alternatives that may be clunkier but vaunt their independence. KPMG — which has received the harshest criticism regarding the quality of its audits over the past 18 months — is the first of the big four to have introduced a formal policy that requires staff to refer to the companies it audits as an “audited company” or “audited entity”. The policy was introduced by KPMG’s UK chair Bill Michael last November in an attempt to reinforce the notion that the firm’s ultimate clients were the shareholders of the companies it audits, rather than company directors. PwC, EY and Deloitte said they did not have formal policies in place on how to describe the companies they audited. However, PwC and Deloitte said that over the past two years, they had informally encouraged th...

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