PwC Japan exec denies political pressure on Toshiba audit

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TOKYO (Reuters) – The head of auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers Aarata LLC on Monday denied it came under political pressure to sign off on an annual financial report by Toshiba Corp, a move which helped the troubled Japanese conglomerate avert a delisting.

PwC earlier this month endorsed Toshiba’s annual financial report with a “qualified opinion”. But it also issued a separate, “adverse opinion” on corporate governance, saying Toshiba was late in booking losses at its U.S. nuclear power subsidiary Westinghouse.

The auditor’s rare, two-part verdict came at a sensitive time for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. While Abe has backed calls for more stringent corporate governance and accounting, analysts said a high-profile bankruptcy or delisting could have hurt a government already struggling with low approval ratings.

“There was none whatsoever,” Koichiro Kimura, CEO of PwC Aarata, told Reuters in a phone interview when asked about political pressure. PwC replaced Ernst & Young ShinNihon as Toshiba’s auditor after the laptops-to-nuclear conglomerate admitted in 2015 to inflating profits for years.

In Toshiba’s annual report filed earlier this month, PwC said it believed that Westinghouse losses, booked in the year through March 2017, should have been recorded in the previous year — an opinion Toshiba said it disagreed with.

If the losses were booked in line with PwC’s opinion, last year would have been Toshiba’s second year of negative worth, in which liabilities exceed assets. Back-to-back years of negative worth is grounds for delisting.

Reporting by Takahiko Wada, editing by Louise Heavens