September 23, 2000
Mr. Jonathan G. Katz, Secretary
Securities and Exchange Commission
450 Fifth Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20549-0609
Dear Mr. Katz:
I am writing to you regarding the proposed changes to the rules concerning auditor independence. I am sure that you have received a number of responses to the proposed rule citing the adverse effects it would have on the clients of accounting firms and accounting firms. I don't want to spend a lot of time covering the same issues addressed in the other letters you have received but I do want to mention what I feel is the key point for you to consider. That point is the fact that there is no hard supportable evidence that indicates that an independence problem exists when firms provide non-attest services to audit clients.
In the rest of my letter I want to approach your proposal from the perspective of a rural accounting firm. Our firm does not audit any SEC clients and probably never will because of where we are located. So the question is why should I even be concerned with this issue. The reason I should be concerned with this issue is my fear that if this rule is adopted it will eventually become the law of the land and all state accountancy boards will eventually adopt it. In fact, according to the president of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, several state boards of accountancy have already stated that they would adopt the proposed rules if the SEC adopts them. That would limit what our firm could do for our audit clients and possibly the clients who need a reviewed or compiled financial statement. That would be unfair to our clients and to our entire rural community. On the surface that sounds like a self-serving statement but in reality it is not. In our area we are the largest accounting firm. We have some service capabilities the smaller firms in our area do not have. We are the only source for some of these services in our area. If we are prohibited by the new rules from providing these services then the local business community will have to seek the services outside of the area. They will have to travel to get the services or they will have to pay the outside firms to travel to our area. That will have a negative effect on the bottom lines of rural businesses. Many of our audits are governmental units. If you force them to go outside of the area to seek services that will force the cost of government up in rural areas.
I do not doubt your intentions in this matter but I do sincerely believe that rather than helping the American public and investors your proposed independence rules will have the opposite effect. This is particularly true for the rural regions of our country.
I urge you to drop this proposal and as an alternative have a meaningful dialogue with our profession, the business community and the investment community. What I am sure you will find is that the business community does not consider it to be a threat to their auditor's independence when they hire their audit firm to provide consulting services. If the investment community is concerned about this issue let them provide evidence that there is a problem. Not just one or two examples but enough evidence to prove that there is a serious problem. Please do the right thing and first prove that there is a serious problem that has to be corrected. If you can prove that there is a problem then it has to be corrected. If there is no problem then please drop the issue. We do not need additional rules that further restrict the ability of American business to operate and that increase their cost of doing business.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue.
Very truly yours,
Allan W. Nietzke CPA
Nietzke & Faupel P.C. CPA's
108 North Caseville Road
Pigeon, MI 48755
cc: Abraham, Levin, Barcia