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Accounting industry consolidation has gone too far, according to a recent survey of 159 public companies conducted by the General Accounting Office. About three-quarters of respondents thought there should be between five and eight major accounting firms; 80 percent said four is the bare minimum. Many respondents added that the true number of potential auditors they can call on is actually less than four, because not all of the major firms can serve every type of industry in all sections of the country. Plus, “a significant majority of respondents said their companies would not use a non�Big Four accounting firm for audit services,” the report stated. But though they would like to have more choices, almost two-thirds of the survey’s respondents opposed government action to increase the number of auditors. Only 22 percent thought that Washington should take steps to boost competition. The GAO report, which was delivered to Congress in September, noted that the Big Four accounting firms currently audit 78 percent of U.S. public companies. Respondents were mostly satisfied with their current auditor, according to the survey; about half had used their current auditor for more than ten years. Apart from former clients of Arthur Andersen LLP, few of the surveyed companies had switched auditors in the past decade.

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