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SEC, Chinese units of accounting firms near settlement: WSJ

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The dispute had threatened to complicate the audits and fundraising capabilities of many Chinese companies and US multinationals.

[NEW YORK] The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Chinese units of the Big Four accounting firms are close to settling a dispute related to audits of US-listed Chinese firms, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

The dispute had threatened to complicate the audits and fundraising capabilities of many Chinese companies and US multinationals.

SEC's commissioners could vote on the settlement as soon as Thursday, the Journal reported.

Under tentative terms of the settlement, the Chinese units of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, KPMG and Ernst & Young would pay fines totaling about US$2 million (S$2.7 million), the Journal reported.

Ernst & Young declined to comment. PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte said they could not immediately comment on the matter.

An SEC Administrative Law Judge in January last year had ordered the Chinese units of the Big Four firms to be suspended for six months from auditing US listed companies, for failing to share audit work that SEC investigators believe could help them uncover accounting fraud.

The Big Four's six-month suspension has been on hold since the January ruling because the firms opted to appeal the decision before the full five-member SEC commission.

The tentative settlement tosses out this six-month suspension, the Journal said.

The settlement also includes a strong framework for the firms to cooperate with the SEC in the future, people familiar with the situation told the Journal.

REUTERS