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  • The Auditing Section
    The Impact of Auditor Rotation on Auditor-client Negotiation1
    research summary posted May 4, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management, 15.04 Audit Firm Rotation 
    Title:
    The Impact of Auditor Rotation on Auditor-client Negotiation
    Practical Implications:

    The study investigates how mandatory audit firm rotation may affect the process of auditor-client negotiations that produce financial statements observed by the public.  Standard setters should be cognizant of the possible implications of mandating rotation.  Mandatory rotation will likely change the auditors’ and clients’ incentives and auditors and clients will likely change their negotiation strategies.  This may result in less cooperation between auditors and clients and in fewer negotiations that end to the satisfaction of both parties (not only in the final audit year prior to rotation but also in non-final years).

    Citation:

    Wang, K. J. and B. M. Tuttle. 2009. The Impact of Auditor Rotation on Auditor-client Negotiation. Accounting, Organizations, and Society 34 (2): 222-243.

    Keywords:
    Auditor rotation, auditor independence, auditor-client negotiation
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study is motivated by a demand for research on the potential effects of requiring mandatory rotation of audit firms following the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. While some believe that mandatory audit firm rotation is the only way to ensure auditor independence, most audit firms and their clients do not believe that mandatory audit firm rotation would impact auditor behavior. This study advances this debate by investigating how mandatory rotation may affect the process of auditor-client negotiations that produce financial statements.  Auditor-client negotiation is important to auditing because it is a natural process of reconciling incentive-induced differences in financial reporting.  Below are the objectives that the authors address in their study: 

    • Investigate how mandatory audit firm rotation (hereafter, mandatory rotation) affects auditor-client negotiations.
    • Examine the process differences in auditor-client negotiation with and without mandatory rotation – examine whether these process differences lead to material changes in the financial statements.
    • Examine the negotiation strategies used by both the auditor and the client and relate those strategies to the negotiated outcomes.  
    • Examine the impact on market dynamics as a result of auditor rotation.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected their evidence via a laboratory negotiation experiment using an abstract setting.  The data was collected prior to 2009.  Participants were graduate business students and were randomly assigned the role of manager (i.e., client) or verifier (i.e., auditor).  Participants were paired, one manager and one verifier, and completed a negotiation task.  For half of the negotiation pairs, mandatory rotation was required after three periods and for the other half of the pairs there were no rotation requirements.  Cash incentives were used to model the “real-world” incentives of clients and auditors.  The negotiation process, auditor and verifier strategies, and outcomes were compared between these two groups.

    Findings:
    • Mandatory rotation reduces the auditor’s relative importance of maintaining a relationship with the client. 
    • Auditors are more likely to use an obliging strategy (i.e. cooperating) under no mandatory rotation, as compared to mandatory rotation.
    • Auditors are more likely to use a strategy of inaction (i.e. unwillingness to compromise) under mandatory rotation (7%) compared to no mandatory rotation (1%).
    • Managers are less likely to send contending messages under mandatory rotation (17.6%), compared to no mandatory rotation (22%).
    • Auditors are less cooperative under mandatory rotation than under no mandatory rotation.
    • The agreement rate of negotiations under mandatory rotation is significantly lower than that under no mandatory rotation.
    • When negotiations result in agreement, the asset values under mandatory rotation are significantly lower (consistent with the auditor’s preferences) than those under no mandatory rotation.
    • In summary, under mandatory rotation auditors adopt less cooperative negotiation strategies, produce results that are more in line with the auditor’s preferences than with the client’s preferences, and less negotiations end in agreement.
    Category:
    Independence & Ethics, Auditor Judgment, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Audit Firm Rotation, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind, Interactions with Client Management, Audit Firm Rotation
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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Relationship between Aggressive Real Earnings Management...
    research summary posted April 19, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.06 Audit Fees and Fee Negotiations, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.01 Earnings Management 
    Title:
    The Relationship between Aggressive Real Earnings Management and Current and Future Audit Fees
    Practical Implications:

    Prior research concerning audit fees and earnings management has focused primarily on accruals management. This article shows how the audit fee and audit risk models support auditors’ pricing behavior in a REM setting. Specifically, the results are consistent with auditors, after observing aggressive REM, increasing current audit fees to cover the cost of additional effort required to gain reasonable assurance that the financial statement are free of material misstatements and increase both current and future audit fees to cover increases in perceived business risk.     

    Citation:

    Greiner, A., M. J. Kohlbeck, and T. J. Smith. 2017. The Relationship between Aggressive Real Earnings Management and Current and Future Audit Fees. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 36 (1): 85 – 107. 

    Keywords:
    audit fees, business risk, audit risk, and aggressive real earnings management.
    Purpose of the Study:

     The authors examine whether aggressive real earnings management (REM) activities are associated with audit fees. Prior research focuses on accruals-based earnings management and suggests that auditors extract additional audit fees to cover costs associated with increased engagement risk, which includes audit risks related to the issuance of an incorrect opinion and nonaudit risk related to impaired reputation, fewer business opportunities, and the inability to collect desires and future audit fees. The distinction between accrual and real earnings management is important for auditors because the potential effects on company performance and engagement risks are different. REM alters normal firm operations, impacts current and future cash flows, imposes additional costs, and sacrifices firm value. Whether auditors charge higher fees for earnings management behavior that does not violate generally accepted accounting principles if important to study as clients continue to pursue REM to meet reporting objectives. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors utilize a conceptual audit fee model to identify specific examples within this framework where REM is likely to increase engagement risk and thereby increase audit fees through either increased effort, a risk premium, or both. They perform further analysis to better understand the sources between aggressive REM and fees.

    Findings:
    • The authors find, overall, a positive association between aggressive REM and both current and future audit fees.
    • The authors find that changes in aggressive REM are associated with changes in fees.
    • The authors find that only current aggressive REM is positively associated with audit report delays.
    • The authors find evidence that the associations between aggressive Rem and future fees are driven by firms with higher REM incentives.
      • Further, they find that the future effect of aggressive REM is stronger among firms constrained by balance sheet bloat.
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fees & Fee Negotiations, Earnings Management
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Impact of the Timing of a Prior Year’s Auditor C...
    research summary posted April 19, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management 
    Title:
    The Impact of the Timing of a Prior Year’s Auditor Concessions on Financial Officers’ Judgments
    Practical Implications:

    The authors examine an important aspect of audit-client history and provide evidence on how the timing of auditor concessions in one period affects financial officers’ negotiation judgments in the subsequent period. They also show the importance of incorporating this variable into auditor-client negotiation studies. 

    Citation:

    Cheng, M. M., H. T. Tan, K. T. Trotman, and A. Tse. 2017. The Impact of the Timing of a Prior Year’s Auditor Concessions on Financial Officers’ Judgments. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 36 (1): 43 – 62. 

    Keywords:
    auditor-client negotiations, negotiation strategy, concession timing and negotiation history
    Purpose of the Study:

    Auditors and clients frequently engage in negotiations to resolve disagreements over financial reporting decisions. These negotiations ultimately lead to concessions being made either by the auditor, the client, or both. Existing research delves into the effect of strategies employed during negotiations in the current period, but this study differs by examining multi-period effects of negotiation strategies. Specifically, the authors consider the impact of negotiation history by investigating three concession timing strategies (concession-start, concession-end, and gradual concession) used by auditors in the previous negotiation period and their effect on financial officers’ negotiation judgments for the current year audit.  

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors conduct an experiment where financial officers made negotiation judgments after receiving information about an auditor’s negotiation behavior in the prior year. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find that financial officers expect a larger ultimate income-decreasing write-down and expect to provide more concessions to the auditor if their auditors had used a concession-start strategy rather than a concession-end strategy in the prior year.
    • The authors find support for a mediation model in which an auditor’s prior-period concession provided at the end (rather than the start) of the negotiation positively increases managers’ expected ultimate write-down, which then positively affects their satisfaction with the negotiation outcome; in turn, negotiation outcome positively influences manager’s intention to continue a future relationship with the auditor. 
    Category:
    Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Interactions with Client Management
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    A Field Survey of Contemporary Brainstorming Practices
    research summary posted February 20, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.02 Changes in Audit Standards, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.01 Fraud Risk Assessment, 06.07 SAS No. 99 Brainstorming – process, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.03 Interaction among Team Members 
    Title:
    A Field Survey of Contemporary Brainstorming Practices
    Practical Implications:

    Understanding that auditors allocate greater resources to fraud brainstorming when engagement risk is significant fosters brainstorming of a superior caliber corresponds to stronger regulatory compliance.  Auditors report that engagement teams are holding fraud brainstorming sessions earlier in the audit, document more detailed risk assessments, plan more specific procedures, and retain more documentation.  These characteristics contribute to adequately addressing increased PCAOB regulatory scrutiny.  Additionally, brainstorming sessions are highly regarded when they occur in a face-to-face fashion and are attended by multiple levels of firm personnel—whether that is “core” or “non-core” professionals.  Fraud brainstorming sessions are executed less mechanically (as determined by PCAOB inspectors) by using fewer checklists and increase the amount of time auditors prepare for brainstorming sessions.  

    Citation:

    Dennis, S. A., and K. M. Johnstone. 2016. A Field Survey of Contemporary Brainstorming Practices. Accounting Horizons 30 (4): 449–472. 

    Keywords:
    audit planning; engagement risk; field survey; fraud brainstorming; professional skepticism
    Purpose of the Study:

    The purpose of this study is to further understand current fraud brainstorming practices minding regulatory climate and its impression of brainstorming practices.  The authors seek to understand the auditing profession’s existing framework to effectively brainstorm by evaluating audit team characteristics; attendance and communication; structure, timing, effort; and brainstorming quality.  Fraud brainstorming environment is considered with respect to client characteristics; particularly, inherent, fraud, and engagement risks, and if the client is publicly traded or privately held.  The authors refer to the characteristics as “partitions”.  The partitions allow the study to better examine how each characteristic effects the deployment of resources in response to risk levels and trading status. 

                The study poses further exploration into the implementation of Statement of Auditing Standards No. 99 and its effect on fraud brainstorming practices.  Particularly addressing the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s report suggesting auditing professionals were “mechanically” addressing fraud-related auditing standards.  SAS 99 sought to blend experienced audit professionals—those with greater client experience—with less-seasoned auditors to brainstorm how a fraud could occur specific to the client.  As part of the brainstorming framework, the study seeks to understand if senior-level auditors (partners and managers) and seniors and staff members, along with “non-core” professionals, cultivate meaningful brainstorming sessions. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected field data from audits conducted between March 2013 and January 2014, per a survey of 77 audit engagements.  Information pertaining to the client, audit team, and brainstorming sessions were called upon in the survey.  The majority (93 percent) of observations were obtained by two Big 4 firms—7 percent from one non-Big 4 global firm.  Each engagement’s partner received instructions for the distribution of the survey to lead managers and lead seniors on the respective engagement while the partner withheld that the survey was for research purposes.  A total of 75 managers and 73 seniors participated.  

    Findings:
    • Surveyed auditors rarely interacted with engagements where fraud in financial reporting was identified.
    • When fraud risk and inherent risk are both elevated for a particular engagement, perceived professional skepticism is also elevated.
    • Risk-based resource deployment is consistent when considering high- versus low-risk clients—particularly, when inherent risk is elevated, audit team size is also greater.
    • Public clients cultivate larger audit teams where managers and seniors have more client experience.
    • With respect to contributions made at brainstorming sessions, the audit partner and manager make the greatest contributions along with forensic specialists and audit seniors.  Interestingly, when fraud brainstorming is more important with respect to the engagement, seniors make lower relative contributions. 
    • Media richness theory is robustly at work with respect to attendance patterns at brainstorming sessions.  Specifically, when engagement risk is elevated, staff and seniors are more likely to attend face-to-face. 
    • Fraud brainstorming sessions are most commonly open-discussion (86 percent) where the session is held during the planning stage of the engagement (87 percent).
    • Results propose that audit partners are open-minded to suggestions made during fraud brainstorming.
    • Fraud risk assessments appear to be independent from brainstorming tactics; however, when inherent risk is elevated and if the client is public versus private, audit teams exert more effort.  
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Engagement Management, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Changes in Audit Standards, Fraud Risk Assessment, Interaction among Team Members, SAS No. 99 Brainstorming – process
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Effect of Networked Clients’ Economic Importance on A...
    research summary posted January 12, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.05 Interactions with Audit Committee Members, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control 
    Title:
    The Effect of Networked Clients’ Economic Importance on Audit Quality.
    Practical Implications:

    Relationships between an auditor and the client have the capacity to impair auditor independence, which may have a negative impact on financial reporting quality. As such, research that examines issues that have the potential to impair audit quality should be important to the auditing profession. Furthermore, audit committees play a critical role in ensuring auditor independence and audit quality; therefore, it is important to consider the potential impact of the auditor’s economic dependence created by interlocking on audit quality. 

    Citation:

    Hossain, S., G. S. Monroe, M. Wilson, and C. Jubb. 2016. The Effect of Networked Clients’ Economic Importance on Audit Quality. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (4): 79 – 103.

    Keywords:
    audit committee-audit partner interlocks, audit quality, client importance, fee dependence, going-concern opinions, and discretionary accruals.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The authors examine the association between audit quality and the economic importance of client networks that are created by audit committee member-audit partner interlocks, which occur when an audit committee member of a company is also an audit committee member of other companies that are audited by a common audit firm and engagement audit partner. When an audit partner audits several companies that have audit committee members in common, there is potential for a self-interest threat to auditor independence. The interlocked audit partner may perceive that disputes with the management of a particular client within the network may threaten future fee income from the other companies in the network; thus, these economic ties have the have the potential to erode auditor independence and, as a consequence, reduce audit quality.  

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors test the association between each audit-quality proxy and each client network fee dependence measure using regressions based on unrestricted samples and samples of clients matched on their inherent propensity to be associated with an audit committee-audit partner interlock. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find that network fee dependence is significantly associated with lower audit quality as measured by each of their audit-quality proxies, suggesting that the economic dependence created by such links may reduce the likelihood of an auditor issuing a first-time going-concern opinion and may increase the extent to which reported earnings are biased away from the level at which a neutral application of GAAP would precipitate.
    • Collectively, the authors’ findings provide support for the contention that audit partner dependence on fees from other companies in the network created by audit committee member-audit partner interlocks erodes audit quality in economically significant client firms. 
    Category:
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Interactions with Audit Committee Members
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Concession, Contention, and Accountability in Auditor-Client...
    research summary posted November 15, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.03 Management/Staff Interaction 
    Title:
    Concession, Contention, and Accountability in Auditor-Client Negotiations
    Practical Implications:

    This paper extends previous work by examining how clients’ use of contending tactics affect auditors’ decisions during a negotiation, which separates itself from the research of the past by investigating the clients’ current negotiation tactics, not the tactics of the past. This paper also introduces the level-of-aspiration theory into consideration for auditor negotiation literature.

    Citation:

    Bergner, J. M., S. A. Peffer and R. J. Ramsay. 2016. Concession, Contention, and Accountability in Auditor-Client Negotiations. Behavioral Research in Accounting 28 (1): 15-25

    Keywords:
    auditor-client negotiations, accountability, concurring partner review, and level-of-aspiration theory.
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study focuses on investigating how tactics employed by a client during negotiations impact experienced auditors’ propensity to waive material adjustments and whether the salience of a concurring partner review (CPR) can affect these negotiations. The audit profession as a whole remains fixated upon auditor independence and financial statement quality, so it is important to examine potential tactics by a client since negotiations directly affect the resulting financial statements. The authors of this study hope to expound upon existing literature by examining how a client who is concessionary or contentious during the negotiation may affect its outcome. In addition, they study whether a CPR reduces auditors’ propensities to waive material adjustments. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors conduct an online experiment in which auditors make decisions about the audit of a hypothetical client. They manipulate two independent variables: client tactics and CPR salience.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that auditors are more likely to waive material adjustments when clients use contending tactics during negotiations. This particular results varies from previous studies that examined negotiation outcomes involving contentious clients. The former studies examine pre-negotiation situations where the client has been contentious in the past, this study finds that auditors react differently when the client is being contentious during the current negotiation.
    • The authors find that the level-of-aspiration (LOA) theory may describe auditors’ decisions regarding contentious clients. Reciprocity theory has been used in the past but does not explain these results. Reciprocity theory predicts that auditors will respond to a contentious client by becoming more contentious, while LOA predicts the opposite. Because this study finds that the auditor conceded to the wishes of the contentious client, the results follow LOA.
    • The authors find that the presence of an existing quality control procedure mitigates the auditors’ propensity to waive material adjustments.
    Category:
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Interactions with Client Management, Management/Staff Interaction
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    CEO Financial Background and Audit Pricing
    research summary posted October 12, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.06 Audit Fees and Fee Negotiations, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.09 CEO Tenure and Experience 
    Title:
    CEO Financial Background and Audit Pricing
    Practical Implications:

     The findings of this study suggest that the training and functional expertise of the CEO can affect the auditor’s perception of engagement risk, observed through a reduction in audit fees. They add to the growing literature of CEO characteristics which highlight how top managers influence firm outcomes.

    Citation:

     Kalelkar, R., S. Khan. 2016. CEO Financial Background and Audit Pricing. Accounting Horizons 30 (3): 325-339.

    Keywords:
    CEO financial expertise; audit fees
    Purpose of the Study:

     Theory suggests that the audit pricing decision is a function of a client’s audit risk and business risk. Recent literature has suggested that CEO characteristics can affect how auditor’s perceive the firm’s audit risk and the resulting audit pricing decision. This paper addresses how the financial expertise of Chief Executive Officer influences audit fees. The authors hypothesize that a CEO’s financial expertise can affect the level of audit fees through two channels:

    • Reducing the firm’s business risk through greater performance and profitability and

    • Reducing the firm’s audit risk by improving the quality of the firm’s financial reporting.

    Specifically, they suggest that a CEO’s financial expertise will lower both the firm’s audit risk and business risk resulting in lower audit effort and a corresponding reduction in audit fees.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use a sample of firms with changes in CEO financial expertise between 2004 and 2013.  Specifically, they look at firms that switched from a CEO with financial expertise to a CEO with no financial expertise and vice versa, resulting in a sample of 77 firms and 81 changes in financial expertise.

     

    Alternatively, to address the unobservable characteristics of the firm which may influence both accounting outcomes and CEO selection, the authors utilize an instrumental variables two-stage model.  They use the local density of financial firms as an instrument for the financial expertise of the focal firm.  The location of the firm can influence the financial expertise of the board of directors.  When the board holds greater financial expertise this can limit the demand for a CEO with similar functional expertise within the firm.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that audit fees for firms with a financial expert CEO are lower by 8.5 percent, or $310,000.  The results are robust to controlling for CEO voluntary turnover, the simultaneous turnover of the CFO, firm fixed effects, as well as an instrumental variables approach.
    • Consistent with their predictions, results suggest that a CEO’s financial expertise results in lower audit fees, potentially due to decreased audit risk and lower audit effort.
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fees & Fee Negotiations, CEO Tenure & Experience
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Managers’ Strategic Reporting Judgments in Audit N...
    research summary posted August 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management, 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.11 Audit Committee Effectiveness 
    Title:
    Managers’ Strategic Reporting Judgments in Audit Negotiations
    Practical Implications:

     The results of this study are important to consider when examining the effects of the audit committee on managers’ judgments. This study identifies the changes to the reporting environment stemming from the implementation of SOX, particularly with respect to communications between auditors and the audit committee and the authority and responsibility of the audit committee. This study adds insight to prior archival research that suggests that audit committees considered to be effective are associated with greater financial reporting quality. Further, these findings suggest that managers act as if auditors and audit committees that jointly resist management pressures to engage in aggressive reporting play important roles in ensuring high financial reporting quality.

    Citation:

     Brown-Liburd, H., A. Wright and V. Zamora. 2016. Managers’ Strategic Reporting Judgments in Audit Negotiations. Auditing, A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (2): 47-64.

    Keywords:
    Audit negotiation, past counterpart relationship, audit committee oversight
    Purpose of the Study:

     Prior research has largely characterized audit issue negotiations as a dyadic relationship between auditors and managers. However, the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) substantially enhanced the audit committee’s oversight responsibilities for the financial reporting and auditing process. Thus, negotiations post-SOX may be viewed as a triadic relationship involving managers, auditors, and the audit committee. Differing judgments between auditors during negotiations and managers during financial reporting exist because they have different perspectives and incentives. Whereas managers’ incentives relate to maximizing financial reporting outcomes while maintaining the firm’s reporting reputation, auditors’ incentives relate to fostering a functioning working relationship with the client while appropriately attesting to the financial statements. These differences in perspectives and incentives yield contrasting expectations of negotiation judgments for auditors and managers. This study seeks to examine the joint effects of past auditor-client negotiations and audit committee strength on management’s strategic reporting judgments.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

     The authors recruited participants from an executive training session attended by CFOs/controllers and held at a large public university in the southeastern U.S. During a controlled experiment, participants completed the hard copy experimental case. Participants engaged in planning for an upcoming audit negotiation involving a subjective estimate for an inventory write down due to obsolescence. The authors asked participants to identify their initial offer and their perception of the negotiated ultimate final outcome. Audit committee strength was manipulated as either weak or strong. The nature of past auditor-client negotiations over “grey” misstatements was manipulated as either contentious or cooperative.

    Findings:

    The results are consistent with a strong combined effect of the roles of both the auditor and the audit committee in managers’ pre-negotiation judgments.

    • The presence of both strong audit committee oversight and an auditor that has been contentious in past negotiations together significantly constrain managers’ aggressive reporting.
    • The presence of weak audit committee oversight and an auditor that has been cooperative in past negotiations jointly provide the opportunity for managers to engage in more aggressive reporting.
    • Managers report less aggressively in the presence of a contentious auditor and strong oversight by the audit committee to ensure timely resolution and protect the firm’s financial reporting reputation, and to minimize the risk that the audit committee will intervene against the managers’ favor.
    • Managers report more aggressively in consideration of his/her relative bargaining power against a cooperative auditor who appears to have high relationship concerns, along with weak oversight by the audit committee that is passive/persuadable. 
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Engagement Management, Governance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Committee Effectiveness, Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Interactions with Client Management
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Size Variables in Audit Fee Models: An Examination of the...
    research summary posted August 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.06 Audit Fees and Fee Negotiations 
    Title:
    Size Variables in Audit Fee Models: An Examination of the Effects of Alternative Mathematical Transformations
    Practical Implications:

    The authors’ results indicate that the complexity associated with auditing more subjectively valued assets may affect audit fees in a manner that is not fully captured by the traditional log transformation. Based on their findings, the authors also suggest that future audit fee studies assess alternative mathematical transformations of client size variables.

    Citation:

    Cullinan, C. P., H. Du, and X. Cheng. 2016. Size Variables in Audit Fee Models: An Examination of the Effects of Alternative Mathematical Transformations. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory. 35 (3): 169-181.

    Keywords:
    audit fee, fair valued assets, closed-end mutual funds, and non-linear.
    Purpose of the Study:

    Company size, typically measured as total assets, is an important factor in audit fee models. The size measure is usually transformed by taking the natural logarithm of total assets. The log of assets and the log of audit fees are used when studying audit fees to control for the non-linear relationship between asset size and audit fees. For example, as the population size (the number of individual assets held) increases, the sample size necessary to audit the population is only minimally affected, creating a non-linear relationship. This method was born from necessity after the realization that there was no true way to determine the form of the function; however, when this method became widely used, fair value accounting was not commonly used. Now that fair value accounting has become the “norm” and there are different methods of measuring fair value, mathematical transformations should be revisited. ASC 820 requires the disclosure of whether fair values were determined based on directly observable inputs (Level 1), indirectly observable inputs (Level 2), or unobservable inputs (Level 3). The authors combine the two insights regarding fair valued assets and mathematical transformations to examine whether the log transformation of different types of fair valued assets provides the best fit in an audit fee model, or whether other mathematical transformations may better reflect the non-linear nature of the relationship between different types of fair valued assets and audit fees. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors examine these issues in audit fee models among closed-end mutual funds and among a broad-based sample of publicly traded companies.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that for the closed-end audit fee model, the log transformation provides the best fit for Level 1 valued assets, while a square root transformation provides the best fit for assets valued using Level 2 inputs, and cube root best fits Level 3 valued assets.
    • The authors’ findings are consistent with the idea that auditing the fair value of assets valued using Level 2 and Level 3 inputs may be more costly for auditors because they have to assess management’s evaluation of indirectly observable inputs and/or management’s own estimates of future cash flows and discount rates.
    • The authors find that, for the broad-based sample, the audit fee model also indicates that the log transformation alone may not fully capture the non-linear relationship between assets of different levels of complexity and audit fees.
    • The authors find that, for both the closed-end and broad-based samples, the significance of the other variables in the audit fee models can differ when the transformations of the size variables are allowed to vary. This suggests that a more rigorous test of non-size variables can be performed when the size variables are permitted to follow a better-fitting mathematical transformation. 
    Category:
    Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fees & Fee Negotiations
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Volatility of Other Comprehensive Income and Audit Fees
    research summary posted July 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.06 Audit Fees and Fee Negotiations 
    Title:
    The Volatility of Other Comprehensive Income and Audit Fees
    Practical Implications:

    This paper asks whether auditors recognize the volatility of OCI and incorporate it into pricing of audits.  They find that audit fees do reflect changes in OCI and that these changes reflect various risk factors associated with OCI.  The findings suggest that auditors already recognize the difficulty in assessing value of fair value items which run through OCI—reinforcing regulator concerns about fair value valuation.

    Citation:

    Huang, H., S. Lin, K. Raghunandan. 2016. The Volatility of Other Comprehensive Income and Audit Fees. Accounting Horizons 30 (2): 195-210.

    Keywords:
    Other comprehensive income; audit fees; fair value audits
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study investigates whether auditors incorporate volatility in other comprehensive income (OCI) into fees.  Increased attention from standard setters, both domestically and internationally, on fair value accounting has increased auditor focus on fair value financial instruments.  Fluctuations in many of these assets are reflected in OCI, thus volatility in OCI may indeed influence the auditor’s inherent risk assessment.  Other studies have shown that investors do not seem to accurately incorporate volatility of OCI in pricing, so it is an empirical question whether auditors can incorporate it into their risk assessment.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use a sample of S&P 500 firms from 2002 to 2006 and supplement this sample with a comparable sample from 2008 to reinforce their findings.  Data on OCI was hand collected from the SEC’s EDGAR database and combined with financial information from Compustat and auditor data from Audit Analytics.  The authors exclude financial sector firms, resulting in a final sample of 1,858 firm-year observations.

    Findings:

    The authors find:

    • A positive relationship between volatility in OCI volatility and audit fees, with or without controlling for other factors that influence audit fees.
    • Changes in OCI have predictive power for audit fees above and beyond changes in net income, suggesting items that flow through OCI are incorporated into audit pricing.
    • When breaking out OCI volatility into its components, the authors find audit fees incorporate volatility in foreign currency translation, available-for-sale investments, and minimum pension liabilities.  Audit fees increase as volatility of these items increases.
    • Audit fees have a negative relationship with volatility of cash flow hedges.  These hedges offset risk in the underlying prices; therefore, volatility in the hedges is indicative of firms successfully hedging against risk.  These firms pay lower audit fees.
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Audit Fees & Fee Negotiations

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