Satyam fraud: PwC gets two-year auditing ban in India

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Besides, the watchdog has ordered disgorgement of over Rs 13 crore wrongful gains by the audit major and its two erstwhile partners who worked on the IT majors accounts.

In its order, the SEBI, on Wednesday said any entities or firms practicing as chartered accountants in India under the brand and banner of PwC, shall not directly or indirectly issue any certificate of audit of listed companies, or their intermediaries that are registered with the regulator for a period of two years.

"Any enforcement measure taken by Sebi with a preventive and remedial object, as envisaged under Section 11B of the Sebi Act, would not serve the goal unless the directions bring within its fold the PW network operating in India".

The firm, which audited software services exporter Satyam Computer Services during the period in which the $1 billion fraud took place, said it was disappointed by SEBI's 108-page order on Wedensday.

Experts, however, said even if Price Waterhouse manages to get a court to issue a stay order on the SEBI ban, it faces the risk of losing clients. In the light of that stand, it is expected to challenge the Sebi order.

"As we have said since 2009, there has been no intentional wrongdoing by PW firms in the unprecedented management perpetrated fraud at Satyam, nor have we seen any material evidence to the contrary", Price Waterhouse said in a statement.

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"The SEBI order relates to a fraud that took place almost a decade ago in which we played no part and had no knowledge of".

The Securities and Exchange Board of India said that PwC was complicit with the main perpetrators of the accounting fraud at Satyam Computer Services nine years ago, and it was found that audit firm did not comply with the auditing standards and norms.

Coincidentally, SEBI order has come in the same month as the then Satyam chief Ramaliga Raju's admission of guilt to SEBI on January 7, 2009. The Satyam promoters inflated revenue and profits to showcase a healthy picture of the company when PwC was its auditor. Satyam's auditor from 2000-2008, a PricewaterhouseCoopers affiliated firm, signed off on the books.

"They might lose a lot of business on the other sides, not just audit, and they have to report it in other jurisdictions". The company was bought by Tech Mahindra, another outsourcing company.

In a 108-page statement, SEBI said that the manner in which various entities bearing the PwC name had been registered in India in a "nebulous way", made it hard not to take notice of the "loss of faith of the investors in the brand name".

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