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Instilling professional values

Sustainable Audit Quality
Audit quality is our primary goal, and this is reflected in the launch of our Sustainable Audit Quality (SAQ) program. SAQ is our globally consistent approach to implementing the highest level of audit quality across the organization. Launched in 2015, it is the highest priority for our Assurance practice.

We use the word “sustainable” in SAQ to demonstrate that this is not a one-off, short-term initiative, but an ongoing process of improvement. EY has had a common audit methodology for some time, and now we have a common language and processes regarding audit quality.

There are six components to SAQ: tone at the top; transforming our people model; simplification; audit transformation; enablement and quality support; and accountability. SAQ is implemented by each member firm and is coordinated and overseen globally as well as by the Q board.

We are constantly reinforcing the importance of the six components. It is something we talk about to every regional Assurance leader and every partner. Audit quality and the key elements of SAQ are something every senior manager, manager and team member must understand and be committed to implementing locally. SAQ is essential to all our goals and ambitions.

Tone at the top
Senior EY leadership is responsible for setting the right tone at the top and demonstrating EY’s commitment to building a better working world through behavior and actions. While the tone at the top is vital, our people also understand that quality and professional responsibility start with them. Our shared values, which inspire our people and guide them to do the right thing, and our commitment to quality are embedded in who we are and in everything we do.

Our approach to business ethics and integrity is contained in the EY Global Code of Conduct and other policies and is embedded in our culture of consultation, training programs and internal communications. Senior management regularly reinforces the importance of performing quality work, complying with professional standards and adhering to our policies, leading by example and through various communications. Also, our quality review programs assess professional service as a key metric in evaluating and rewarding all professionals.

Our culture strongly supports collaboration and places special emphasis on the importance of consultation in dealing with complex or subjective accounting, auditing, reporting, regulatory and independence matters. We believe it is important to determine that engagement teams and clients correctly follow consultation advice, and we emphasize this when necessary.

Our consistent stance has been that no client is more important than our professional reputation — the reputation of our firm and the reputation of each of our professionals.

Code of conduct
We promote a culture of integrity among our professionals. The EY Global Code of Conduct provides a clear set of standards that guide our actions and our business conduct. It is organized into five categories containing principles that are to be followed by everyone at Ernst & Young Accountants LLP to guide behavior across all areas of activity:
  • Working with one another
  • Working with clients and others
  • Acting with professional integrity
  • Maintaining our objectivity and independence
  • Respecting intellectual capital
Through our procedures to monitor compliance with the EY Global Code of Conduct, and through frequent communications, we strive to create an environment that encourages all personnel to act responsibly, including reporting misconduct without fear of retaliation.

The Global Code of Conduct is disclosed on our website and is evaluated periodically. The most recent evaluation was performed in July 2013.

In accordance with the Code for Audit Firms, we assessed the whistle-blower and complaints procedures, as described in this section. In our opinion, these procedures operated effectively during fiscal year 2015/2016 and reports were followed up appropriately.

The EY Ethics Hotline provides our people, clients and others outside of the organization with a means to report activity confidentially that may involve unethical or improper behavior and that may be in violation of professional standards or otherwise inconsistent with the EY Global Code of Conduct. The hotline is operated by an external organization that provides confidential and, if desired, anonymous hotline reporting services for companies worldwide.

When a report comes into the EY Ethics Hotline, either by phone or internet, it receives immediate attention. Depending on the content of the report, appropriate individuals from Risk Management, Talent, Legal or other functions are involved to address the report. All matters are handled by experienced individuals, with oversight from the global Risk Management function. For those matters that are reported outside of the EY Ethics Hotline, the same procedures are followed.

During this fiscal year, no internal reports were filed through the EY/Ethics Hotline. The Hotline is also open for external reports re Ernst & Young Accountants LLP. In fiscal year 2015/2016, one external report was filed through our EY/Ethics Hotline (2014/2015: four reports).

That report was filed by a former contractor where civil proceedings are now ongoing. Two internal reports were filed through other channels. These concern two cases where employees expressed concerns regarding the conduct or behavior of other team members. Based on further analysis of these complaints corrective actions were taken, if necessary.

Through other channels, our firm occasionally receives comments, questions, complaints or demand letters from clients, liquidators or other stakeholders. Items raised include different expectations regarding the assurance or services delivered, our invoices or timeliness in the delivery of our services. Most issues are dealt with satisfactorily at the operational level, i.e. by the teams involved. More substantial comments, questions, complaints or demand letters are always dealt with at a higher level in the organization and are assessed and discussed on a case-by-case basis. Complaints or demand letters may lead to an acknowledgement, apologies or a refutation. This year we received six new complaints and five new demand letters. If necessary, based on a review of these complaints and demand letters, we will perform a further analysis that could result in improvements for the engagement team or changes to our quality control system.

Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)– Netherlands
In accordance with the Dutch Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act (Wet ter voorkoming van witwassen en financieren van terrorisme, Wwft), specific institutions have a legal duty to report unusual transactions to the Dutch Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The Act aims to prevent unacceptable financial practices such as money laundering. During fiscal year 2015/2016, Ernst & Young Accountants LLP reported 38 unusual transactions to the FIU (compared with 56 in fiscal year 2014/2015).

Our values
Who we are
People who demonstrate integrity, respect and teaming
People with energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead
People who build relationships based on doing the right thing