PW ban: Listed firms to scout for auditors

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The Satyam scam arose when Ramalinga Raju, founder of the erstwhile Satyam Computer Services Ltd, admitted that he had padded the books of the software services giant for several years by nearly Rs 7,000 crore.

The ban comes after the firm was accused of negligence in its audit work at the now defunct Satyam Computer Services. "We believe that the order is also not in line with the directions of the Hon'ble Bombay High Court order of 2010 and so we are confident of getting a stay before this order becomes effective", the spokesperson added, referring to the August 2010 High Court order that ruled that no direction can be issued against PW if there is only some omission without proof of connivance and intent to fraud. However, the market regulator said: "For removal of operational difficulties, this order will not impact audit assignments relating to the financial year 2017-18 undertaken by the firms forming part of the PWC network".

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The audit firm stands a better chance of getting a stay if it approaches the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) instead of a court, said Sandeep Parekh, founder, Finsec Law Advisors and a former SEBI law officer. "The network structure of operations adopted by the global accounting firm should not be used as a shield to avoid legal implications arising out of the certifications issued under the brand name of the network", the order said. A major player in the auditing space, Price Waterhouse has a total of 11 network firms and employs around 3,000 people in India, reports the PTI.

Sebi has also directed the auditing firm to pay Rs 13.09 crore along with 12 percent interest per annum since January 2009. Of this, Rs 13.09 crore was paid to PW Bangalore for Satyam's audit.

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The Satyam fraud, one of the biggest financial frauds in the country, came to the fore in the year 2009, when its's founder Ramalinga Raju admitted and confessed before market regulator SEBI about large-scale financial manipulations in the account books of Satyam Computer Service Ltd.

"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".

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Satyam, which was bought by Indian IT firm Tech Mahindra in an auction in 2010, and PricewaterhouseCoopers agreed in 2011 to pay a combined $17.5 million to settle US probes into the fraud. SEBI announced the ban in connection with the role of Price Waterhouse (PW) in the Rs 8,000-crore Satyam scam of 2009.

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