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Publicly traded companies saw their audit fees rise less than 3% last year but they’re working to keep an even tighter lid on fees this year. Public companies paid an average of $3.7 million to their outside auditors in 2008, up just 2.2% from the previous year’s total, according to a survey of 360 public and private companies conducted by Financial Executives International (FEI). The private companies surveyed, which were generally smaller than the public companies, paid average audit fees of $219,500, up 3.7% from 2007. The public company audits on average required 9,881 hours of auditors’ time last year, while audits of private companies took 1,903 hours.

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