Website of the Month: PCAOB Online
By Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, St. Bonaventure University
This column has reviewed two competing websites. The official Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) website (www.pcaobus.org) was the subject of the October 2003 review. The commercial website is reviewed for the current issue.
If the required auditor registration under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is not confusing enough, auditors now have more than one PCAOB-named website to choose from. PCAOB Online (www.pcaob.com) is operated by Karl Nagel, a California CPA who has also created related websites at www.sarbanes-oxley.com, www.pcaob-online.com, and www.karlnagel.com, providing interconnected access to the main resources. These websites are not operated by the PCAOB, but provide information that complements the official website.
PCAOB Online resembles an electronic newsletter and practitioner manual. The homepages of the related websites are organized around current news from various sources. Access to the website group is free; however, registration is required to use certain features.
The lack of graphics means links load quickly and can be printed easily. Most of the resource materials appear in HTML format rather than as PDF files. Some materials are available via e-mail request from the website creator, or by purchasing and downloading in Word format.
Linking four websites with no main index makes navigation frustrating. The browser’s back button or address drop-down is usually the easiest way to return to a starting point. Some resources are available via multiple routes, but with no main index or site map, this is not apparent to users. Additionally, the main top horizontal and left-side header links are to the other related websites, not to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or the PCAOB, as it might appear, which could confuse first-time users.
The site’s main “news/current events” section fills the center of the homepage. Recent articles covering a wide range of public company topics come from a variety of sources, including The New York Times, the Financial Times, and WebCPA. Users looking for older articles can use the keyword search function, which conveniently appears in the header on all pages. A drop-down menu of topic choices would be a useful additional feature.
An article’s title links to a subsidiary page with the first paragraph or so of the article. (Some introductory paragraphs also provide commentary by Nagel.) Users can then click on a link to the full article on the originator’s website, comment on the article, or read other users’ comments.
Technical Issues Forum
The technical issues forum, located at the bottom of the left-side index, is a hidden gem of the website group. The forum offers information on 25 internal control topics. The individual topics’ texts include embedded hyperlinks to specific sections of SOX. The index (referred to as a thread listing) for the forum awkwardly lists the individual primers in reverse order after the first primer, forcing the user to scroll down to the bottom to find the second primer. The individual primers are identified with section designations, not to be confused with sections of the legislation.
The website group offers access to five main categories of documents: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the related SEC rules, the PCAOB proposed rules, the Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Manual, and the Internal Controls Primer. Documents are grouped under the “accounting oversight information center,” which unfortunately is not directly accessible from the homepages of the four main websites. A shortcut to the center is www.pcaob.com/pcaob.php.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the SEC rules, and PCOAB proposed rules are accessible under the left-side index, and can be searched by keyword. Documents are available only by individual sections, not as complete reports.
A product Nagel offers called the Compliance Manual can be accessed under “accounting oversight compliance services” and is available for download in Word format for $8. The Internal Controls Primer is another Nagel product (Word format, $89) and can be accessed under the “accounting oversight compliance services” bulletin board and in the technical issues forum.
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