THE APPOINTMENT of the first lawyer to the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AUASB) was recognition of the intersection between the work of lawyers and auditors, according to Elizabeth Johnstone.
Partner and head of Blake Dawson Waldron’s company law and governance practice, Johnstone said the appointment was timely, with changes currently being made to auditing standards worldwide.
“We have got very clear priorities because [the board] has a very tight timeframe to finalise the auditing standards that will come into effect in the new financial year,” she said. “It has very immediate priorities in getting the new standards finalised and released.”
Her new role brought the legal and auditing professions together “in an interesting way” and acknowledged the “intersection” of their roles “particularly in the governance space”, Johnstone said.
“Auditors themselves play a significant role in the whole corporate governance framework.”
Johnstone’s credentials include advisory work on auditors, audit independence and general audit services. Before joining BDW, she worked as a senior executive, company director and academic. She advises on corporate law and governance, including strategic issues for publicly listed companies, and much of her recent work has involved transactional governance.
Johnstone has advised the board of listed property trust of GPT on transactional governance issues associated with a merger proposal from Lend Lease, a takeover from Stockland and subsequent options involving Babcock and Brown and Westfield; the board of Ramsay Health Care on transactional governance issues; and the board of the National Australia Bank on probity and governance issues associated with an investigation into unauthorised foreign currency options trading.
She said her position on the AUASB was important to BDW in so much as it was recognition of the firm’s specialist expertise in the area. “We have been building a specialist governance practice over the last decade,” Johnstone said.
“It’s another step in what we are building across the country, where we are getting some of the most interesting governance work.”