Auditors as Regulatory Actors: The Role of Auditors in Banking Regulation in Switzerland
This paper investigates the long-standing Swiss dualistic approach to banking supervision, whereby banks' external auditors report not only to shareholders under company legislation but also report to, and undertake work for, the banking regulator under banking legislation. The dual role raises the issue of whether auditors are sufficiently independent of management to act fairly with respect to both shareholders and supervisors. In contrast, recent literature and policy-making on regulation advocates the need to close the distance between regulators and those regulated, and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has advocated a closer relationship between banking supervisors and banks' external auditors. The paper investigates the dual role by providing empirical evidence from interviews undertaken with Swiss audit partners, and analysis of documentary material from the Swiss banking regulator and IMF. The paper concludes inter alia that the Swiss dualistic system ‘works’ because it is supported by a layered regulatory approach at audit firm, national and international levels to ensure and safeguard auditor independence and competence. Whether such a system would work elsewhere depends on national factors such as conceptions of the nature of corporate governance and of the state, and prevailing views on private actors undertaking public roles.
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Volume (Year): 21 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
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