'World is slightly mad': Big Four attack regulator's switch to audit job

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The Independent Online

The Big Four accountants have questioned the timing of Laura Carstensen's move to chair the audit committee at Park Group as she finishes a regulatory inquiry designed to break their market dominance.

A senior industry source said Ms Carstensen's move from the Competition Commission to the Christmas hampers company shows the "world is slightly mad". The former Slaughter & May partner is weeks away from completing a two-year report on how to foster greater competition in an £800m market in which KPMG, EY, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte check the books of over 90 per cent of FTSE 350 businesses.

Ms Carstensen's proposed reforms have come under fire from the Big Four, which say they are already fiercely competitive with each other. In particular, they have questioned her insistence on mandatory tendering, which would see the biggest listed companies put the audit role out to bids every five years.

The 52-year-old joined Park as a non-executive director last week and in her role as audit committee chair she will deal with EY. In a submission to Ms Carstensen's inquiry, EY argued that a number of the commission's ideas could have "harmful unintended consequences" and that mandatory tendering would be "counterproductive".

A Big Four source said: "I wouldn't be very comfortable as the audit partner sitting opposite her."

Another source said the issue was with the timing of her move straight from the regulator to the audit role, particularly as some of her ideas had been "misguided". Ms Carstensen said: "I look forward to benefiting from EY's objective viewpoint as chair of Park's audit committee."