Accountancy giants such as KPMG, PWC, Deloitte and EY, have spent a large amount of time on the naughty step of late due to claimed failings.
The auditors have been blasted by MPs for their varying involvements in large corporate crashes, such as Carillion and BHS.
But now a group of bean counters is pressing the regulator to turn its attention to the conduct of company executives, rather than focus only on them.
Firms including Grant Thornton, BDO and Mazars are arguing that the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) should be granted powers to punish errant company bosses, as well as auditors, the Press Association reports.
Carillion – once the UK’s second biggest construction company – went bust in January
It comes in response to a Government review of the FRC’s role and powers, on the back of the high profile corporate failures.
Accountancy firms argue that chief executives and finance directors play a central role in the auditing of companies, and should face heavy sanctions for botched audits.
It is understood that Grant Thornton believes the FRC should be able to fine directors who mislead auditors, and that fines should be equitable to the scale of the misconduct.
In the firm’s submission to the so-called Kingman review, BDO said the FRC held no authority over the majority of those responsible for good governance and financial reporting.
‘In this, the FRC is like the director of a play with only a small number of the full cast of actors on the stage, taking directions from them,’ BDO said.
‘Currently, those actors taking direction comprise the corporate’s audit firm, accountants within that firm, and any individuals at the corporate who are accountants.
‘They do not include, for example, the CEO of a company who is not an accountant. They do not include the CFO who is not an accountant.’
The regulator should also have the power to sanction any advisers involved in corporate reporting, BDO said, including the surveyors responsible for valuing assets.
Department store chain BHS collapsed into administration in 2016 after being sold for £1
Accountancy firm Mazars has also proposed giving the FRC more clout in boardrooms, arguing it could play a broader role in corporate governance.
‘This board should also have the ability to call for necessary improvements and, where necessary, to seek enforcement action against board members and not just, as at present, professional accountants and actuaries on boards,’ it said.
A spokesman for the FRC said: ‘The FRC and others have called for powers over all directors who are responsible for preparing financial statements, and not just members of accountancy bodies.’
The so-called Big Four have been criticised by the FRC for an overall decline in audit inspection results.
They were also savaged by MPs earlier this year for ‘feasting on the carcass’ of Carillion after collecting more than £70million before its demise.