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August 28, 2008

French firms experience drop in overall fees

The fees earned by French professional service firms have dropped and there are marked differences between the work-sharing efforts of joint auditors in some cases, according to a recent study by the French financial regulator (Autorité des Marchés Financiers – AMF).

Overall fees paid to statutory auditors for audit and non-audit services by French companies listed in the CAC 40 (Cotation Assistée en Continu – CAC), France’s benchmark stock market index, fell 3 percent to €728 million ($1.1 billion) in the 2007 financial year.

The AMF said the fall reflected the relative stability of the regulatory environment in 2007, with most of the audit work on IFRS and internal control being conducted in 2005 and 2006 following the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for foreign companies listed in the US. The AMF reported there had been no material change in fees paid for services directly related to the audit engagement and a slight increase in fees paid for non-audit services.

Ernst & Young remained the leading auditor with 21 engagements (22 in 2006), while Deloitte consolidated its second-place position. Mazars, though not one of the Big Four, now has the same number of engagements (12) as KPMG, although KPMG’s engagements were worth €109 million compared to Mazars €52 million.

A new standard of professional practice, entitled Audits Performed Jointly by Several Statutory Auditors, requires joint auditors to share the various tasks in a concerted and balanced fashion. However, despite a slight improvement in the sharing of work between joint auditors, in practice there were cases where their relative involvement differed sharply.

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