Even board directors from large, multinational companies in Europe lack the opportunity to meet and discuss important issues. To provide that common ground, Tapestry Networks organized the European Audit Committee Leadership Network (EACLN) in 2004 with the support of Ernst & Young.
The network was the first of its kind and remains the best forum for bringing together directors from European Union member states and non-EU countries such as Finland, Russia, and Switzerland to discuss corporate governance and board leadership.
Members are committed to explaining the work of audit committees in dialogue with stakeholders like the European Commission, the International Accounting Standards Board, national regulators like France’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers, and the investment community.
Members are also committed to improving the performance of their own and – through the publication of the ViewPoints synthesis of insights generated in their meetings – other audit committees in Europe. The EACLN’s insights are often cited by groups like the Institut Français des Administrateurs.
Recent network topics:
The hype around cybersecurity is fully justified. In a discussion with Mark Hughes of BT Group Security, audit chairs learned that companies face a number of formidable adversaries. Companies must fight them at the perimeter of the network and inside it. Boards need to focus more on cybersecurity, asking pointed questions of management and using outside experts.
Boards oversee strategy development in various ways, but crises drive increased engagement. Audit chairs said that effective oversight includes the use of dedicated strategy days and outside experts. They identified key topics of discussion, such as competitors and disruptive technologies. Audit chairs also explored the concept of risk appetite and its links to strategy.
On September 18, 2012, members of the European Audit Committee Leadership Network (EACLN) and Bank Governance Leadership Network (BGLN), who are audit committee chairs or members drawn from leading global public companies, met with members of the European Parliament (MEPS) and their staff in Brussels to discuss recent developments in audit policy.
By considering a range of policy instruments, from light-touch recommendations to heavy-duty directives, the European Commission is weighing the best approach to improve corporate governance. Members discussed the separation of the board chair and CEO roles, quotas for women on boards and limits on board mandates with Eric Ducoulombier, acting head of the unit dealing with corporate governance at the commission.
Current scrutiny of the auditing profession by policymakers and regulators has raised the question of whether and how audit committees can use their evaluations of their companies' external auditors to improve the audit. EACLN members discussed the evaluative process, the specific criteria applied, and the trade-off between cost and quality.
Dr. Bernd Voss
European Audit Committee Leadership Network
Audit Committee Chair, Continental AG