The significant expansion over the last 30 years in financial services is one aspect of the phenomenon described as the ‘financialization of economies’(Porter, 2005). This financialization goes hand in hand with the globalization of financial activity: free circulation of capital and stock market interconnection have fostered the development of new practices (notably risk management), the emergence of new markets (the derivatives market, for instance) and the rise of new actors (such as pension funds). Financial globalization and the financialization of economies would be practically inconceivable without access to presumably reliable information on the companies (including banks and insurance companies) listed on stock markets worldwide. One source of this information is the ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (Sinclair, 2005). Another is the companies themselves, which through their accounts report a true and fair view of their assets and the results of their operations. Trustworthy accounting information relies today on the assurance that it has been prepared in compliance with a series of standards known as accounting standards. This assurance is provided by an audit of the accounts. Audit is a practice performed by qualified professionals and is a standardized practice, as these professionals are supposed to follow ‘professional service standards’or simply ‘auditing standards’. Accounting and auditing are thus areas in which the standardization and internationalization rationales are closely related.
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