The audit watchdog must cut the Big Four down to size

Linda J. Dodson

There needs to be more responsibility and independence beyond box-ticking so that accounts are properly scrutinised. Questionable accounting methods have become too widespread.

Replacing the “going concern” statement with a broader declaration of “resilience”, and requiring auditors to at least “endeavour to” find wrongdoing, are also excellent proposals.

Directors can’t run away from their responsibility either. Forcing companies to confirm that dividends do not threaten their financial stability seems perfectly fair, as does allowing investors to grill the audit committee chairman at annual meetings. Incompetence and complacency are better words to describe the auditing profession right now.

Spare the tears over Lloyds boss’ exit

Ignore the effusive goodbye at Lloyds for Antonio Horta-Osorio. These grand farewells for chief executives are becoming as silly as Oscar acceptance speeches. Yes, he did a decent job in difficult circumstances, but he’s perfectly replaceable. Most bosses are.

Although the Portuguese says he has “mixed emotions”, shareholders seem more certain of how they feel – the share price bounced as much as 2pc after the twin departures of its chief executive and chairman Norman Blackwell were announced.

Horta-Osorio did a good job nursing Lloyds back to health after the financial crisis, steering it back into private hands. Offloading overseas assets was the right move. The empire-building of the past had created a weaker bank, not a stronger one, but the balance sheet needed bolstering so he had little choice.

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