Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is the SEC about to give TPM outsourcing a helping hand?

Could be. At the recent TPMA meeting in St. Petersburg (it was not fun going home to eight inches of snow in Chicago), I made a presentation on benefits to be gained from Sarbanes-Oxley (it was an extended version of this post).

One of my points was that creating Sarbox-compliant trade promotion processes should make it much easier to outsource management of trade promotion – thus eliminating a messy, paperwork-intensive task that is not part of a marketer’s core business. A good argument, I thought.

At the very next session I attended, however, I got a jolt – a much better argument is coming. Ron Lunde was presenting on changes to be made in Sarbox, and said that among proposals being made by the PCAOB is one that one allow outside auditors to rely on data from responsible outside sources.

This could mean (if adopted by the Securities & Exchange Commission) that a company’s auditors might not have to perform audits on work performed by an outside supplier.

… the Board also proposed for public comment a new auditing standard on considering and using the work performed by internal auditors, management and others in an integrated audit of financial statements and internal control, or in an audit of financial statements only. This proposed standard is intended to further clarify how and to what extent an independent auditor may use that work to reduce the work the auditor otherwise would have to perform.

The full report is here.

The effect of this, if a conversation on the subject among the attendees at Ron’s presentation works out, is that a company would not need to have their trade promotion program audited by their Big Four audit firm, if the systems, processes, and practices of that program could be attested to by a responsible, reliable party. While that might be someone internal, it is more likely to be credible if it were an outside party with a SAS-70 certification.

The TPM outsourcing companies currently argue that their costs are not much higher than doing the work internally (actually, they often argue that it’s cheaper, but I’ve never really bought that argument), but if a potential client could also significantly reduce the cost of their annual audit by eliminating trade promotion from the items to by audited, the outsource firms would have a powerful new argument.

The period for comment on the proposed changes has just expired, so we can expect an update on this subject in the next few months.

1 comment:

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