Monday 18 November 2019

UK: England and Wales: the scope of the auditor's duty of care

Judgment was given last Friday in BTI 2014 LLC v Pricewaterhousecoopers LLP & Anor [2019] EWHC 3034 (Ch). The case concerned an application by PwC to strike out a claim or alternatively for summary judgment in its favour. The claim was brought by BTI and centred on the allegation that PwC's negligent audit of two sets of annual accounts had caused directors to pay large dividends that they would not have paid had PwC acted non-negligently (the accounts, it was said, should have shown higher liabilities and fewer distributable reserves).

Mr Justice Fancourt refused PwC application and noted, in particular, that question of the scope of the auditor's duty of care was "a notoriously difficult area of the law ... it would be wrong, in my judgment, to decide the issue of law as a general proposition, on a summary basis, without having the benefit of clear factual findings in the context of which the arguments and their consequences can be properly tested" (para. [121]).

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