When Will Claims be Recognized? Defending Claims Against Auditors by Non-Clients

For the Defense

Authored Article

Author(s) , James L. Gale

Auditors are increasingly targeted as an attractive "deep pocket" to pay for harm caused by their clients; actual or perceived misdeeds. In the wake of corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom, the accounting profession has met harsh criticism. This increased negative public perception can be expected to result in increased claims against accounting firms, including law­ suits by non-clients who claim that the audit led to their losses. See W. Joseph Nielsen, Defending Accounting Malpractice Actions in Connecticut: An Increasingly Difficult Task, Connecticut Bar Journal (Sep­tember 2004).

This shift in the public perception cre­ates a possibility of relaxation of limitations that have traditionally protected auditors. Traditionally, auditors have not faced lia­bility except to those parties with whom they had contracted. However, audited financial statements are used not only by the client, but also by the public at large. Investors, creditors, customers and sup­pliers utilize audited financial statements in various ways. Absent limitations on the scope of the auditor's duty, the array of potential plaintiffs claiming loss caused by a negligent audit is broad and the poten­ tial liability is catastrophic. See Hannesson I. Murphy, Accountant Liability for Negli­gence in the Absence of Privity, Trial Advo­ cate Quarterly (Fall 2005).

The complete article, "When Will Claims be Recognized? Defending Claims Against Auditors by Non-Clients," first appeared in For the Defense in August 2007.