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Burned Investors Ask ‘Where Were the Auditors?’ A Court Says ‘Who Cares?’

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Judges request that SEC weigh in on case that could affect $17 billion industry

The Securities and Exchange Commission has said that properly executed audits are crucial for investors. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/The Wall Street Journal

One of the country’s most influential courts has asked the nation’s top securities regulator for its views on an uncomfortable subject: whether audit reports by outside accounting firms actually matter.

The court already ruled that, at least in one case, they didn’t. That case, where an insurer overstated profits and an auditor signed off on its books, led to an investor lawsuit against the auditor that was dismissed. In its ruling, the court said the audit report was so general an investor wouldn’t have relied on it. 

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