Revelations of a fresh internal probe into a possible breach of independence rules at KPMG have a weary familiarity. Auditors, like bankers, lawyers and plenty of other professional services, tread a fine line between keeping clients (and hence their own bottom lines) sweet and avoiding the sort of overreach that rings regulatory alarm bells.

Accounting scandals at felled British companies from cafe Patisserie Valerie to outsourcer Carillion have soured public perceptions of the industry. Regulatory ramp-up, however, has been much more modest. The Financial Reporting Council, the watchdog, has so far committed to a £5.5m hike to its voluntary levy on companies and plans to add another 100 staff...

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