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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Firms’ Client Acceptance Decisions: Does P...
    research summary posted July 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.02 Industry Expertise – Firm and Individual 
    Title:
    Audit Firms’ Client Acceptance Decisions: Does Partner-Level Industry Expertise Matter?
    Practical Implications:

     This paper contributes to the literature on auditor industry expertise in many ways. First, it extends previous studies on this topic to examine whether industry specialists demonstrate different risk preferences in client acceptance decisions. The finding that partner-level industry specialists are more likely to accept less risky clients may partly explain why industry specialists have better quality clients.

    Citation:

    Hsieh, Y., and Lin C. 2016. Audit Firms’ Client Acceptance Decisions: Does Partner-Level Industry Expertise Matter? Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (2): 97-120.

    Keywords:
    partner-level industry specialization, client acceptance decision, and Big N auditors
    Purpose of the Study:

    Recently, audit firms have paid more attention to client acceptance decisions due to increased litigation risk. As a result more and more studies have investigated what goes into making this important decision. However, most prior studies examine whether auditors evaluate client risk characteristics when making client portfolio management decisions and whether auditors change their portfolio management strategies in response to changed in response to changes in litigation liability. Few studies have examined the impact of auditor characteristics other than accounting firm size. Auditors with different attributes could have different risk considerations in making client portfolio management decisions. In fact, previous studies have suggested that auditors use industry experience as a risk management strategy to mitigate risk on client portfolio management decisions because industry specialists provide high-quality audits and thus decrease litigation risk and reflect a good client-auditor match. Audit firms make large investments in specialized industries, so specialist auditors have an incentive to shed risky clients to avoid litigation risk and protect their reputation; hence, whether audit firms use industry expertise as a risk management strategy to mitigate the effect of risk is an empirical issue. The authors of this paper hope to explore whether industry specialization affects the association between risk considerations and client acceptance decisions. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The sample is restricted to Taiwanese listed companies audited by Big N audit firms from 1999 to 2010. The final sample contains 9,337 observations. A Client Acceptance Decision Model was created to examine the effect of auditor industry expertise on firms’ risk consideration when making client acceptance decisions. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find that auditors are less likely to accept clients with audit risk higher than that of existing clients.
    • The authors find that firm-level industry expertise has no significant effect on the association between risk consideration and client acceptance decisions.
    • The authors find that partner-level industry specialists alone are less likely to accept clients with higher financial risk or higher audit risk, which supports the hypothesis that partner-level industry specialization affects the association between risk factors and client acceptance decisions. No evidence is found that firm-level industry expertise alone affects risk considerations in client acceptance decisions. 
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Industry Expertise – Firm and Individual
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Spatial Competition at the Intersection of the Large and...
    research summary posted June 15, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.08 Impact of Office Size 
    Title:
    Spatial Competition at the Intersection of the Large and Small Audit Firm Markets
    Practical Implications:

     This study illustrates new measures of spatial competition that incorporate the separate and distinct effects of competition within and between the large and small audit markets. This study also provides evidence that the pricing in the large firm market segment is affected by competitive pressure from small audit firms; furthermore, the study provides evidence of a differentiation premium that small audit firms are able to obtain by being perceived as competing in a bigger league than other small audit firms. Finally, the study contributes by examining measures of competition beyond the Herfindahl index in the audit firm market.

    Citation:

    Bills, K.L. and N.M. Stephens. 2016. Spatial Competition at the Intersection of the Large and Small Audit Firm Markets. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (1): 23-45.

    Keywords:
    spatial competition, market for audit services, market space, differentiation, small audit market
    Purpose of the Study:

    Research in the past including a study performed by the Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) of the United States suggest that the large and small audit firm markets are two distinct markets in many respects; however, prior research also suggests that there is a component of the small audit firm market that competes for clients directly with firms operating in the large audit firm market.  Within this study, the authors create measures of competition that take into account these two distinct markets and how their interaction may affect the competitive positions of the players in both markets.  This is achieved by separately examining spatial competition within and between audit firms in both the large and small audit firm markets. Because the Department of the Treasury has emphasized the importance of small audit firms becoming viable suppliers for companies typically served by the large audit firm market, there is a need for a closer look at the smaller audit firm market and how its members can potentially compete with larger audit firms. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Data from Audit Analytics and Compustat was used to perform the tests of the hypotheses. Two separate samples were constructed– one sample including large audit firm clients and another sample including small audit firm clients. Large audit firms are defined as the Big 4 audit firms, and small audit firms are defined as all non-Big 4 audit firms.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that the audit fee large audit firms charge decreases with the success of small audit firms at aligning themselves with the large firms in their market space.
    • The authors’ findings suggest that spatial competition from small audit firms significantly impacts the large audit firm market; in fact, spatial competition from small audit firms has a greater effect on the large audit firm market than spatial competition from other large audit firms.
    • The authors find that small audit firms that enter the large audit firm market and are perceived as being competitors with the Big 4 firms can improve their competitive positions as compared to other small audit firms.
    • The authors find that small audit firms benefit from obtaining market shares similar to those of large audit firms, whereas large audit firms are harmed by the added competition.
    • The authors find that distance from the closest competitors by market share is an important factor of competition in the small audit firm market; however, it is important to determine distance from whom, large audit firm or small audit firm, as they have opposite signs. 
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Impact of Office Size
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Benefits and Costs of Appointing Joint Audit Engagement...
    research summary posted May 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.07 Audit Firm Rotation, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.03 Partner Rotation, 15.0 International Matters, 15.03 Audit Partner Rotation 
    Title:
    Benefits and Costs of Appointing Joint Audit Engagement Partners
    Practical Implications:

     The results of this study are important to understanding the potential benefits of joint engagement partner audits compared to single-partner audits. The results of this study identify an association between the type of partner audit (joint vs. single) and audit quality and audit fees. As regulators consider the association between joint audits and audit quality, the results of this study suggest there are benefits to joint-partner audits, particularly when the partners are located in the same office. Compared to single-partner audits, joint-partner audits are associated with higher audit quality. Compared to joint audit firms, joint-partner audits appear to provide the same benefits without the increased cost.

    Citation:

    Ittonen, K., and P. C. Trønnes. 2015. Benefits and costs of appointing joint audit engagement partners. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 34 (3): 23-46.

    Keywords:
    Joint auditing; engagement partners; audit quality; audit fees
    Purpose of the Study:

    Audits using joint engagement partners versus audits using a single engagement partner may produce significant benefits. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between joint engagement partners and audit quality and audit fees. The authors of the study predict that joint audit partners improves audit quality via benefits in knowledge and experience, consultation availability with a joint partner, and reducing client-specific knowledge lost due to partner rotation.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use 1,345 firm-year observations from the NASDAQ OMX Exchanges in Finland and Sweden for the period 2005 to 2009.

    Findings:
    • The authors find a stronger association between joint engagement partners and higher audit quality when the partners are from the same, rather than a different, office.
    • The authors find that joint engagement partners, compared to single partners, are associated with less accruals (two proxies for audit quality).
    • The authors find a small decrease in audit fees for joint engagement partners from different offices compared to single-partner audits. The authors find no difference in audit quality. 
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Independence & Ethics, International Matters
    Sub-category:
    Audit Firm Rotation, Audit Partner Rotation, Partner Rotation
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Facilitating Brainstorming: Impact of Task Representation on...
    research summary posted May 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.09 Group Decision-Making, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.08 SAS No. 99 Brainstorming – effectiveness, 09.0 Auditor Judgment 
    Title:
    Facilitating Brainstorming: Impact of Task Representation on Auditors’ Identification of Potential Frauds
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important due to the requirement of members of the audit engagement team to identify potential fraud. The results of this study identify a method of improving auditor performance of identifying potential frauds at both the individual brainstorming stage and the subsequent group brainstorming stage. Because the effectiveness of the group brainstorming session is dependent on the quality and quantity of inputs from the individual auditor brainstorming sessions, the present study suggests a simple intervention regarding task representation to improve the performance of these inputs. Specifically, auditors considering potential fraud categories (e.g., revenue recognition, inventory, etc.) one by one, as opposed to all at once, identify a greater quantity and quality of potential frauds. By improving both the individual and group brainstorming stages, auditors are less likely to overlook potential fraud.

    Citation:

    Chen, W., A. S. Khalifa, and K. T. Trotman. 2015. Facilitating brainstorming: Impact of task representation on auditors’ identification of potential frauds. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 34 (3): 1-22.

    Keywords:
    Brainstorming; task representation; fraud identification; fraud risk assessments
    Purpose of the Study:

    Members of audit engagement teams are required by auditing standards to discuss the client’s susceptibility to potential frauds, usually referred to as “brainstorming.” The purpose of this study is to examine individual auditor brainstorming prior to the brainstorming session of the group. The specific preparation stage prior to a group brainstorming session is an important input to the group session itself and may alter the effectiveness of the subsequent group brainstorming session. The authors of the study predict that a sequential unpacking approach (consideration of fraud categories one by one) to identifying potential fraud improves the quantity and quality of potential frauds identified at both the individual brainstorming stage and the group brainstorming stage.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The experimental evidence was collected prior to 2013 at either the Melbourne or the Sydney office of a Big 4 firm in Australia. The experimental design was a 2 x 1 between-subjects design with task representation manipulated as sequential unpacking (categories considered one by one) or simultaneous unpacking (categories considered at once). Auditor participants included seniors, assistant managers, and managers with an overall average of 4.83 years of audit experience.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that sequential unpacking improves auditor performance at the individual brainstorming stage compared to simultaneous unpacking.
    • The authors find that auditors in the sequential unpacking treatment tend to distribute identified potential frauds across categories more evenly than those in the simultaneous unpacking treatment.
    • The authors find the benefits of sequential unpacking to extend beyond individual brainstorming to the group brainstorming session.
    • The authors find that the perceived likelihood of fraud is lower for auditors in the sequential unpacking treatment than those in the simultaneous unpacking treatment.
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Auditor Judgment, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Group Decision-Making, SAS No. 99 Brainstorming – effectiveness
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Small Audit Firm Membership in Associations, Networks, and...
    research summary posted May 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 03.0 Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes, 03.01 Auditor Qualifications, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.08 Impact of Office Size 
    Title:
    Small Audit Firm Membership in Associations, Networks, and Alliances: Implications for Audit Quality and Audit Fees
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for regulators concerned about the lack of competition in the audit market for large publicly-traded companies.  These data indicate that audit firm associations can increase competition in this sector of the market by providing small firms with the necessary resources to adequately audit large, global, and complex audit clients.  These findings should also be of interest to small audit firms interested in better serving larger audit clients.  Lastly, these results should be of interest to corporate governance bodies and investors interested in the relationship between audit firm type and audit quality.

    Citation:

    Bills, K. L., L. M. Cunningham, and L. A. Byers. 2016. Small Audit Firm Membership in Associations, Networks, and Alliances: Implications for Audit Quality and Audit Fees. The Accounting Review 91 (3): 767-792.

    Keywords:
    associations; networks; small audit firms; audit fees
    Purpose of the Study:

    Small audit firms are often restricted in their ability to audit large public companies because these companies often have global operations and complex business and financial reporting environments which demand a level of resources difficult for smaller firms to provide.  Many of these small firms seek membership in accounting firm associations in an effort to overcome these barriers.  Accounting firm associations are autonomous organizations in which all firm members are independent in legal name and structure, but membership affords participating firms access to resources provided by the association itself as well as fellow association members.

    Because accounting firm associations can pre-screen affiliate members and provide access to resources that would otherwise be more difficult or costly for small audit firms to obtain, audit quality for the clients of these affiliate members is likely to be higher than the clients of unaffiliated small audit firms.  Addressing this issue is important because over half of all publicly traded companies are audited by small audit firms and little accounting research to date examines differences in audit quality across the clients of small audit firms.  Below are three objectives the authors address in their study:

    • Examine whether audit quality is higher for clients of affiliated audit firms relative to the level of quality provided by nonmember firms.  The pre-screening process and access to additional resources is expected to result in higher quality for affiliated small audit firms relative to unaffiliated small audit firms.
    • Examine whether clients who choose to engage an affiliated small audit firm pay a fee premium.  If membership in an accounting firm association is associated with a perceived reputation for higher audit quality, then audit fees for affiliated small audit firms should be higher relative to unaffiliated small firms.
    • Examine whether the potential increase in audit quality associated with membership in an accounting firm association affects the extent to which audit quality differs between Big 4 firms and small, but affiliated audit firms. While prior research indicates audit quality is lower for small audit firms relative to Big 4 firms, affiliation in an accounting firm association may provide small firms with the additional resources necessary to close this gap.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use hand-collected audit firm association membership data from 2010-2013, along with financial statement data for publicly traded firms, to examine whether audit quality and audit fees for publicly traded clients differs between small audit firms affiliated with an audit firm association and small firms with no such affiliation.  Audit quality was measured using PCAOB inspection findings, financial statement misstatement rates, and differences in levels of client discretionary accruals.

    Findings:
    • Affiliated small audit firms provide on average higher quality audits to their publicly traded clients relative to small, un-affiliated audit firms.  In particular affiliated small audit firms are less likely to receive accounting related deficiencies, or audit related deficiencies in their PCAOB inspection reports.  In addition, the clients of affiliated members report fewer annual financial statement misstatements, and less extreme discretionary accruals.  In addition, the findings indicate that when a small audit firm joins an accounting firm association, audit quality increases in subsequent years.  Lastly audit quality is increasing in the size of the audit firm association.  This indicates that the increase in audit quality is driven by an increased access to valuable resources provided by the affiliation.
    • Affiliated small audit firms receive an audit fee premium from their clients relative to unaffiliated small audit firms and this premium is increasing in the size of the audit firm association. 
    • The researchers observe no significant differences in audit quality between affiliated small audit firms and Big 4 firms.  This indicates that affiliated small audit firms provide high-quality audits to large publicly-traded companies.  In addition, while affiliated small audit firms experience a fee premium relative to unaffiliated firms, these fee premiums remain lower than those experienced by Big 4 firms.
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes
    Sub-category:
    Auditor Qualifications (e.g. size - industry expertise), Impact of Office Size
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Attracting Applicants for In-House and Outsourced Internal...
    research summary posted April 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.04 Staff Hiring, Turnover and Morale, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.11 Reliance on Internal Auditors, 13.0 Governance, 13.07 Internal auditor role and involvement in controls and reporting 
    Title:
    Attracting Applicants for In-House and Outsourced Internal Audit Positions: Views from External Auditors.
    Practical Implications:

    This study offers insights into why internal auditing is experiencing a shortage of qualified job candidates and offers a potential solution to the problem. The authors find that external auditors have negative perceptions about internal auditing, and these negative perceptions are associated with a (1) decreased desire to apply for internal auditing positions, (2) lower likelihood of recommending an in-house internal auditing career to high-performing students, and (3) higher likelihood of recommending an in-house internal auditing career to mediocre students. Internal auditors can try solving this problem by improving perceptions about internal auditing via a media campaign that raises awareness about the true internal audit career path.

    Citation:

    Bartlett, G.D., J. Kremin, K.K. Saunders, and D.A. Wood. 2016. Attracting Applicants for In-House and Outsourced Internal Audit Positions: Views from External Auditors. Accounting Horizons 30 (1): 143-156.

    Keywords:
    internal audit, hiring decisions, outsourcing, external auditors
    Purpose of the Study:

    The internal audit function can help organizations strengthen their risk management and corporate governance, yet the demand for qualified candidates to fill internal audit job openings exceeds the supply of interested applicants. Consequently, the internal audit function may find itself short-staffed and/or staffed with lower quality candidates, which may limit its ability to add value to the organization. In order to correct this problem, it is important to fully understand its scope and its root cause(s). Prior research attempting to gain this understanding has focused on investigating how accounting students’ beliefs about internal audit impact their interest to pursue an internal audit career. The authors of this paper extend this research by:

    • Investigating how external auditors’ beliefs about internal audit impact (1) their interest to pursue an internal audit career and (2) their recommendations to students about pursuing an internal audit career,  
    • Investigating differences in external auditor’s perceptions of in-sourced versus out-sourced internal audit, and
    • Asking external auditors to suggest what needs to be done to improve their perceptions of internal audit.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use data from three sources. First, the authors performed an experiment using experienced external auditorsmostly seniors or associateswho were asked whether they would apply for a job described as either an accounting, in-house internal audit, or outsourced internal audit position. Second, the authors performed another experiment using experienced external auditorsmostly managers or directorswho were asked whether they would recommend that a high-performing (mediocre performer) student pursue an external audit, in-house internal audit, or outsourced internal audit career. Third, the authors surveyed high-ranking former/current external auditors who never worked in internal audit about what would make internal auditing a more appealing career for them.

    Findings:
    • When the same job opening is labeled as either accounting, in-house internal auditing, or outsourced internal auditing, the accounting label is likely to attract two times as many external auditor applicants as the other two labels.
    • External auditors are equally willing to apply for in-house internal auditing or outsourced internal auditing positions.
    • External auditors have more negative perceptions of in-house internal auditors than outsourced internal auditors.
    • External auditors have negative perceptions of the internal auditing profession. They believe that (1) others have negative stereotypes about the profession, (2) business professionals do not respect internal auditors, and (3) internal auditors do boring work.
    • Those less interested in applying for internal audit jobs have negative perceptions of internal auditing.
    • The average external auditor willing (unwilling) to apply for an internal audit position would want to receive at least 124% (149%) of his current salary before being willing to switch from his current external audit job to an internal audit job.  
    • External auditors will be most likely to recommend that top-performing students work in external audit and mediocre students work in in-house internal audit.
    • External auditors will equally recommend that top-performing students and mediocre students should consider outsourced internal audit as a second best career path.
    • External auditors have more negative perceptions of outsourced internal auditing than external auditing on most dimensions, except in regards to work-life balance. They believe that work-life balance is better for outsourced internal auditors.
    • Current and former external auditors believe that internal auditing could become more appealing if internal auditors do more interesting work, receive more respect, perform value-added tasks, receive better compensation, and have better promotion opportunities. Because internal auditors appear to already be following these suggestions, internal auditors may benefit from giving others a better understanding of internal audit careers.
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Governance
    Sub-category:
    Internal auditor role and involvement in controls and reporting, Reliance on Internal Auditors, Staff Hiring - Turnover & Morale
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    A Contemporary Analysis of Accounting Professionals'...
    research summary posted April 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.04 Staff Hiring, Turnover and Morale 
    Title:
    A Contemporary Analysis of Accounting Professionals' Work-Life Balance.
    Practical Implications:

    This study offers (1) insights into how different types of accountants perceive work-life balance and alternative work arrangements (which are supposed to fix the work-life imbalance) and (2) advice from accountants on how firms can make alternative work arrangements more effective. The findings of this study may be useful to public accounting firms (employers in industry) that wish to understand their employees’ perceptions of work-life balance and potentially implement changes to enhance their employees’ actual work-life balance.

    Citation:

    Buchheit, S., D.W. Dalton, N.L. Harp, and C.W. Hollingsworth. 2016. A Contemporary Analysis of Accounting Professionals' Work-Life Balance. Accounting Horizons 30 (1): 41-62.

    Keywords:
    work-life balance, work-family conflict, burnout, alternative work arrangements
    Purpose of the Study:

    Work-life balance is not only the biggest driver of job satisfaction among accountants, but it also has important implications for audit quality and the supply of accountants. Despite its importance, little research has investigated how accountants, employed in various settings, perceive work-life balance (e.g., work-family conflict and job burnout) as well as support for and viability of the alternative work arrangements that are reputed to encourage better work-life balance. The authors address this gap by studying differences in such perceptions between accountants working in (1) Big 4 versus non-Big 4 firms, (2) audit versus tax, and (3) public accounting versus industry. This research not only provides a snapshot of how current accountants, employed in various settings, view work-life balance, but also provides a baseline against which the authors can compare future views of work-life balance.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use data from two sources. First, the authors administer a survey to certified public accountants to obtain their perceptions of work-family conflict, job burnout, support for alternative work arrangements, and viability of alternative work arrangements. Second, the authors administer another open-ended survey to a different set of certified public accountants to obtain suggestions for how firms can improve employees’ work-life balance.

    Findings:
    • Support for alternative work arrangements lowers employee burnout, partly by decreasing work-family conflict.
    • Firm Size: Work-family conflict and employee burnout is higher among accountants at Big 4 (mid-sized) firms than their counterparts at mid-sized (local) firms. Big 4 accountants report lower viability of alternative work arrangements than their counterparts at mid-sized firms and local firms.
    • Gender: Work-family conflict is similar between male and female accountants. Male accountants report lower support for and lower viability of alternative work arrangements than female accountants.
      • More female than male accountants report previously utilizing alternative work arrangements. Accountants who report utilizing alternative work arrangements also report higher support for and viability of alternative work arrangements.
    • Rank: Accountants at higher ranks have lower employee burnout than their counterparts at lower ranks. Higher ranking accountants report higher support for and lower viability of alternative work arrangements than lower rankings accountants.
    • Role: Accountants working in audit, tax, and other roles experience similar levels of work-family conflict and employee burnout, as well as support for and viability of alternative work arrangements.  
    • Public vs. Private Sector: Work-family conflict is higher among public accountants than those working in industry. Meanwhile, accountants working at Big 4 firms have higher employee burnout than accountants in industry, accountants working at local firms or as sole practitioners have lower burnout than accountants in industry, and accountants working at mid-sized firms have the same levels of employee burnout as accountants in industry. Furthermore, accountants working in public accounting report higher support for alternative work arrangements than their counterparts working in industry. However, compared to accountants in industry, accountants working at mid-sized firms and local firms report higher viability of alternative work arrangements, but accountants working at Big 4 firms report lower viability of alternative work arrangements.
    • Accountants consider improving work-life balance the best way for firms to improve retention of high-quality employees. Accountants suggest that firms can make alternative work arrangements more effective by:
      • creating greater peer and supervisor support,
      • rating employees on productivity instead of visibility,
      • educating employees more about alternative work arrangements, 
      • keeping promises regarding alternative work arrangements,
      • providing balanced role models and mentors,
      • recognizing that younger employees value work-life balance,
      • offering mini-sabbaticals to employees, and
      • offering other programs to facilitate work-life balance.
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition
    Sub-category:
    Staff Hiring - Turnover & Morale
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Auditing Fair Value Measurements: A Synthesis of Relevant...
    research summary posted March 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.01 Use of Specialists e.g., financial instruments, actuaries, valuation, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism 
    Title:
    Auditing Fair Value Measurements: A Synthesis of Relevant Research.
    Practical Implications:

    The authors believe that when armed with knowledge of how management may intentionally or unintentionally introduce error into their FVMs, auditors will be better able to take steps to adjust for this error. Currently, professional skepticism is the best way to combat this problem. Researchers and policy makers within firms need to grapple with the possibility that existing audit team structure and incentives may not be compatible with audits that require more and more specialized valuation knowledge.

    Citation:

    Martin, R. D., J. S. Rich, and T. J. Wilks. 2006. Auditing Fair Value Measurements: A Synthesis of Relevant Research. Accounting Horizons 20 (3): 287-303.

    Purpose of the Study:

    In order to contribute to the PCAOB project on auditing fair value measurements (FVMs), the authors synthesize and discuss the implications of academic research that should be relevant to auditors, standard-setters, and academics who increasingly deal with the complexities of auditing FVMs. The authors structure their synthesis of prior research along two dimensions:

    1. An emphasis on the auditor’s need to understand how FVMs are prepared, including an awareness of the potential pitfalls and biases inherent in preparing FVMs, and
    2. The audit steps and procedures necessary to verify and attest to FVMs, including an awareness of the potential biases inherent in auditing FVMs.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Structuring the synthesis along the aforementioned dimensions, the authors first focus on the generation of FVMs because they believe auditors cannot exercise due care in the audits of FVMs without a thorough understanding of the underlying valuation techniques and inputs used in assessing FVMs. They focus second on research related to verification and attestation procedures for FVMs, even though very little research directly examines the auditing of FVMs.

    Findings:
    • FVMs frequently incorporate forward-looking information reflected in market place exchanges as well as judgments about the applicability of those market inputs to company-specific conditions.
    • Future events and conditions cannot be predicted with certainty, so an element of judgment is always involved.
    • Specialists are often required to audit FVMs.
    • The structures of audits teams may inhibit the utilization of knowledge of such specialists in today’s audit firms. 
    • A number of errors and biases likely affect prepares’ valuation judgments, and auditors should be aware of those.
    • Auditors may rely on internal controls over FVM estimation process.
    • Auditors must be able to identify key assumptions and inputs in the FVM process.
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Use of Specialists (e.g. financial instruments – actuaries - valuation)
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Group judgment and decision making in auditing: Past and...
    research summary posted February 17, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.09 Group Decision-Making, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.09 Impact of Consultation on Judgments, 09.11 Auditor judgment in the workpaper review process 
    Title:
    Group judgment and decision making in auditing: Past and future research.
    Practical Implications:

    The insights highlighted in this paper from research on audit groups/teams inform one’s understanding of how best to design group interactions between auditors within the firm and with professionals outside the audit firm, including management, audit committees, and inspectors. These insights are important given the criticism audit firms have faced from regulators and inspectors over the past decade and the multi-person setting present in auditing. Further, while a large literature exists on single-person decision-making, these studies may not generalize to multi-person settings. The review also highlights the need for continued research in this area and the importance audit practitioner involvement with future research efforts.

    Citation:

    Trotman, K., T. Bauer, and K. Humphreys. 2015. Group judgment and decision making in auditing: Past and future research. Accounting, Organizations and Society 47: 56-72.

    Keywords:
    Review process, brainstorming, consultation
    Purpose of the Study:

    This paper examines experimental research on audit groups/teams. The paper focuses on three main areas: 1) the hierarchical review process, 2) brainstorming as part of the fraud detection planning process, and 3) consultation within firms. The authors define research on audit groups/team as those papers where two or more individuals within the audit firm interact with one another face-to-face, electronically, or where on person prepares/reviews working papers for another. In addition to summarizing research to date in each of the three areas, the authors suggest directions for future research within the three areas as well as future research on within-firm group interactions. These areas include shared mental models, audit team diversity, and interactions with groups outside the audit firm, such as audit committees.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The paper summarizes research on group audit JDM experimental studies published in Accounting, Organizations, and SocietyContemporary Accounting ResearchJournal of Accounting Research, and The Accounting Review from 1970 through 2015. Relevant working papers are also discussed.

    Findings:

    Note: Given the breadth of this review paper, only select subsections are summarized below.

    • Hierarchical review process:
      • What performance gains result from the review process?
        • The review process generally improves audit effectiveness.
        • However, it is not always effective as biases may not be mitigated by the review process, such as the recency effect.
      • Alternative forms of the review process: Includes research on comparing reviews with and without discussion, specialized versus all-encompassing reviews, and electronic versus face-to-face reviews.
      • Effects of the preparer on the review process:  
        • Studies investigate the attributes of the preparer and the effects of preparer stylization on the review process.  
        • Overall, preparer attributes and stylization have a significant impact on the review process.
    • Brainstorming:
      • Face-to-face interacting versus nominal brainstorming: Nominal groups generate more unique ideas than face-to-face interacting groups, due to process losses (e.g., production blocking) occurring in the face-to-face interacting context.
      • Interacting face-to-face brainstorming compared to alternate brainstorming formats: While unstructured face-to-face brainstorming is the most common method used by audit firms, other methods (e.g., providing guidelines or instructions) outperform this unstructured method with respect to the quantity of fraud risks identified and fraud hypotheses generated.
      • Electronic brainstorming:  
        • Positive consequences of electronic brainstorming include minimizing production blocking and evaluation apprehension, however social loafing is a potential negative consequence.
        • Evidence supports the claim that electronic brainstorming is superior to face-to-face interaction, however as with non-electronic brainstorming, nominal electronic brainstorming outperforms interacting electronic brainstorming.
    • Consultation within firms:
      • Willingness to follow consulting advice: Auditors tend to incorporate advice received, however receiving advice can increase the tendency to follow aggressive client preferences.
      • Willingness to seek consulting advice: In general, auditors are more likely and willing to consult when related risk is high.
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Auditor judgment in the workpaper review process, Group Decision-Making, Impact of Consultation on Judgments
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Discussion of “Does the Identity of Engagement Partners M...
    research summary posted January 20, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.02 Changes in Audit Standards, 01.03 Impact of New Accounting Pronouncements, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.05 Diversity of Skill Sets e.g., Tenure and Experience, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.01 Going Concern Decisions, 15.0 International Matters, 15.01 Audit Partner Identification by Name 
    Title:
    Discussion of “Does the Identity of Engagement Partners Matter? An Analysis of Audit Partner Reporting Decisions”.
    Practical Implications:

    This discussion emphasizes significant caution when interpreting the results of the study. Mainly, it is unclear if results of the study can generalize to the broader public company market in the US. Furthermore, if the results are misinterpreted (i.e., individual auditors are not systematically aggressive but, instead, high quality auditors are systematically assigned the riskiest clients) then regulation requiring audit partner identification could actually have overall negative effects on overall audit quality.

    Citation:

    Kinney, W.R. 2015. Discussion of “Does the Identity of Engagement Partners Matter? An Analysis of Audit Partner Reporting Decisions”. Contemporary Accounting Research 32 (4):1479-1488.

    Keywords:
    auditor attributes, reporting style, auditor identification, audit quality, going concern opinion, Type I error, Type II error, credit risk, insolvency risks, statutory audits
    Purpose of the Study:

    The author reviews the paper's content, analyzes its predictive validity, and discusses its multiple implications. He provides constructive suggestions for improvements. Based on predictive validity analysis, the author concludes that engagement partner assignment strategy is an important and acknowledged omitted variable that affects the study's internal validity via both the independent variable (partner's prior performance measure) and the dependent variable (borrower's cost of debt capital). The omission also affects construct validities and, if audit firms are applying a plausible assignment strategy, then interpretation of the study's main results would be reversed. Finally, the lack of a standards intervention noted by the authors and the extreme size and other differences between audits of Swedish private companies and U.S. public companies impair external validity and generalization to the U.S. intervention.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    This article is a discussion.

    Findings:

    The discussion emphasizes the following points:

    • KVZ (the reviewed paper’s authors Knechel, Vanstraelen and Zerni) main analyses are for statutory (not financial statement) audits of small, private, Swedish companies. Therefore, these results may have more limited generalizability. 
    • KVZ use publically available data for private companies without considering the significant amount of private information available to private lenders and audit firms.
    • KVZ acknowledge and cannot rule out a potential competing hypothesis whereby audit firms follow a “best partner to riskiest engagements” strategy. In this case, the highest quality partners may appear to have the most aggressive reporting strategy because that partner serves riskier clients with harder to predict bankruptcy risk. To confirm/disconfirm this competing hypothesis occurs, KVZ could ask audit firm management to describe their audit partner assignment strategies and rank a sample of partners accordingly. This information could be correlated with KVZ’s reporting style measures.    
    • Regulators, academics, and popular/business press articles may be similarly over-generalizing KVZ’s results. Furthermore, misinterpretation of results could have the ill-effects of high quality audit partners being assessed as low quality. This false characterization may lead high quality auditors to refuse to audit riskier clients where their skills are most needed. As such, any interpretations of KVZ’s results should proceed with much caution.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Audit Team Composition, International Matters, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Audit Partner Identification by Name, Changes in Audit Standards, Diversity of Skill Sets (e.g. Tenure & Experience), Going Concern Decisions, Impact of New Accounting Pronouncements

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