November 2, 2018 / 12:32 PM / 11 days ago

Britain's accounting watchdog chief to step down

LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Stephen Haddrill is to step down as chief executive of the Financial Reporting Council just as a root-and-branch review of what British politicians have called a “timid” watchdog nears completion.

Haddrill has been head of the regulator that oversees accountants, actuaries and how companies apply good governance codes for nearly nine years. The FRC said the exact date of his departure in late 2019 would partly depend on the outcome of the Kingman review.

John Kingman has been asked by the business ministry to look at whether the FRC needs more powers to stop a repeat of corporate failures like construction company Carillion and retailer BHS - or if more radical change in supervising accountants is needed.

The review is due to report back by year end.

British politicians said earlier this year the FRC had been timid in challenging Carillion on the inadequate and questionable financial information it provided.

They have also criticised the watchdog for being too slow in completing investigations into accounting scandals. It has now speeded up its case work and begun imposing record fines.

“I am incredibly proud to have led the FRC for nearly nine years. However, I believe that it should be the job of a new CEO to lead the FRC when the way ahead is decided,” Haddrill said.

The accounting industry also faces other potential changes.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority is due to publish initial findings by year end on its fast-track probe into competition in the audit sector after lawmakers called on the CMA to consider breaking up the Big Four accounting firms.

The Kingman review and CMA probe are seen as a package to help to improve audit standards and keep Britain an attractive place to invest as it departs from the European Union next March. (Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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