SEC Chief Accountant Emphasizes Legal Liabilities for Accountants Auditing Crypto Firms

In this post:

  • SEC Chief Accountant cautions accounting firms about legal liabilities when auditing crypto firms, urging them to avoid misrepresenting reviews as financial statement audits.
  • Accounting firms are advised to exercise independence, consider contractual prohibitions on misleading language, and report any potential misstatements to the Securities Exchange Commission for best practices.

In a recent statement, Paul Munter, the Chief Accountant of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), issued a stern warning to accounting firms regarding their responsibilities when auditing cryptocurrency firms. The rise of the cryptocurrency industry has led to an increasing number of accounting firms engaging with these companies to review certain aspects of their businesses, often masquerading these reviews as full-fledged financial statement audits. Munter highlighted the potential legal liabilities that accounting firms and individual accountants could face if they allow their findings to be misrepresented or misinterpreted.

Misleading Practices in Auditing Crypto Firms Could Attract Severe Consequences

Under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, accounting firms have a legal obligation to detect and report any illegal activities they come across during their audits to the SEC. Munter emphasized that failure to comply with this obligation could result in severe consequences, including censure or suspension of the firm. Furthermore, if material misstatements are made by either the accountants themselves or their clients, it could lead to violations of both the Securities Exchange Act and the Securities Act of 1933.

Best Practices for Accounting Firms When Auditing Crypto Firms

To ensure compliance with Exchange Commission regulations and avoid potential legal ramifications, Munter offered some best practices for accounting firms to consider during the onboarding process of their crypto clients. He advised firms to be cautious of misleading language and misrepresentation of their review work as a full financial statement audit. To address such situations, Munter recommended accounting firms include contractual prohibitions on certain language to prevent clients from presenting their reviews inaccurately.

The most notable advice provided by the SEC’s Office of the Chief Accountant is the option of a “noisy withdrawal” for accounting firms. This involves publicly disassociating themselves from the client through their own statements if they suspect any misleading practices. In more severe cases where disassociation is not sufficient, the firm is encouraged to directly inform the Commission about the matter. Munter emphasized the paramount importance of maintaining independence as an accounting firm and avoiding any appearance of mutual interest or conflict of interest, as this could lead to suspension from practicing before the Commission.

SEC’s Reliance on Accountants and the Need for Prudent Auditing Practices

Munter shed light on the practical challenges faced by the Securities and Exchange Commission in scrutinizing every financial statement in the cryptocurrency industry due to resource constraints. As a result, the Commission heavily relies on accounting firms to ensure corporate compliance with federal securities laws. In recognition of this reliance, the SEC’s Staff Accounting Bulletin 121 was issued in 2022, addressing third-party disclosures and corporate compliance.

However, it is essential for accounting firms to exercise prudence and adhere to best practices while auditing crypto firms. The rise of cryptocurrency-related businesses has attracted both legitimate enterprises and opportunistic actors, making the industry susceptible to potential risks and fraudulent activities. By maintaining integrity, independence, and diligent auditing practices, accounting firms can play a pivotal role in promoting transparency and trust within the crypto ecosystem.


Paul Munter’s statement serves as a timely reminder to accounting firms about their obligations when auditing cryptocurrency companies. With the SEC’s increased focus on the industry, firms must exercise due diligence, follow best practices, and promptly report any suspicious activities to the Commission. The cryptocurrency market’s continued growth and integration with the traditional financial sector demand a strong commitment to regulatory compliance to protect both investors and the industry’s reputation as a whole.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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