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Almost Adversarial ‘Auditing’

A DoITT audit of Verizon┬ápresents issues that are not unusual in the context of compliance audits of contracts. The right to audit / inspect books and records related to contractual performance, where seriously exercised, creates friction and impedes cooperation. Few enjoy being the object of another’s second guessing. NYC and Verizon were at odds – from disagreeing that the City’s inquiry was an audit to demanding inspection of a ‘written audit plan.’ This type of conflict provides a learning experience for those involved in the process different from the learning experiences of academia. While arguments over the application and interpretation of standards occur in both academic and professional contexts (e.g., the Yellow Book), the intractable nature of the problem and the biting words deployed in the professional context are unlike the soft power actions exerted by instructors (e.g., availability of private / personal assistance) in the academic context. It is not flag but tackle football.

The apparent audit is not about who is more right / less wrong. It is about posturing and exaggeration, including the demonstration of stubbornness under the guise of patience. It is playing to the hypothetical fact-finder while preserving dignity in the public domain. It is not to be graded, with one side accumulating more points than the other. It is about attrition. Who will be making the key decisions for NYC and Verizon when the negotiations wind down to the eleventh hour? Who can spin victory from loss?

While this conflict is not in the litigation stage, it fits into the prototypical fact pattern of pre-litigation conflict. Both sides have access to attorneys. Neither side is likely fearful of the daunting costs of litigation during which lawyers, specialists, and others profit from the publicly accepted spectacle of conflict resolution. When the conflict is settled, the principals and agents will smile for the cameras, and, if all goes well, NYC will experience the existence of essential public service of competitive broadband.