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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Interplay of Management Incentives and Audit Committee...
    research summary last edited February 28, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.11 Audit Committee Effectiveness 
    Title:
    The Interplay of Management Incentives and Audit Committee Communication on Auditor Judgment
    Practical Implications:

    This study indicates that increasing the frequency of informal communication between the audit committee and the audit team can positively impact reporting quality, but auditors need to be sensitized to how management may exhibit undue influence and its potential to undermine audit committee effectiveness. From a practical standpoint, this study indicates that failing to consider specific expectations communicated by the audit committee can have severe consequences.

    Citation:

    Brown, J. O. and V. K. Popova. 2016. The Interplay of Management Incentives and Audit Committee Communication on Auditor Judgment.  Behavioral Research in Accounting 28 (1): 27-40.

    Keywords:
    audit committee communication, management incentives, competing preferences, source credibility and auditor judgment
    Purpose of the Study:

    Over the past two decades, the audit committee has evolved from a passive observer to a critical player in ensuring quality financial reporting. Just recently, the PCAOB approved Auditing Standard No. 16 to enhance communication between the external auditor and the audit committee in order to better facilitate the audit committee’s oversight role and improve financial reporting quality. However, despite this reform, auditors continue to harp on the importance of management’s role in corporate governance and its ability to exhibit significant influence during the audit. Consequently, the purpose of this study is to examine the interplay of management and the audit committee on auditor judgment, and whether auditor’s sensitivity to a characteristic of management, its incentive to influence the auditor, moderates the effectiveness of additional oversight by the audit committee. It is also important to examine whether auditors are effectively integrating expressed expectations voiced by the audit committee, in light of the recent passage of AS No. 16.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors administered a 2 x 2 between-subjects experiment that required audit seniors to evaluate management’s estimate for obsolete inventory. The auditors either were or were not given additional communication from the audit committee of its expectations. Management’s incentives to influence the auditor were also manipulated by varying the perceived propensity to manage earnings.  

    Findings:
    • The authors find that management’s incentives to influence the auditor not only affect the persuasiveness of management-provided information but also spill over to impact the potential benefit of additional audit committee communication on auditor judgments.
    • The authors find that when management’s incentives were lower, additional audit committee communication had no effect on auditor judgments, and auditors documented more items consistent with management’s aggressive reporting preference.
    • The authors find that when management’s incentives were higher, the additional communication of the audit committee had a significant and positive impact on auditors’ evidence evaluation and judgments, as auditors were less supportive of management’s aggressive estimate and also documented a greater proportion of evidence items consistent with the audit committee’s expressed expectations. 
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Governance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Committee Effectiveness, Board/Audit Committee Oversight
  • 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
    When Do Ineffective Audit Committee Members Experience...
    research summary posted August 30, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 13.0 Governance, 13.03 Board/Audit Committee Tenure, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.11 Audit Committee Effectiveness 
    Title:
    When Do Ineffective Audit Committee Members Experience Turnover?
    Practical Implications:

     Preserving an image of effective monitoring can be just as important as preserving effective monitoring itself. AC-member ineffectiveness due to financial reporting increases the likelihood of AC turnover for both the AC-members who served during the events precipitating the financial reporting failure as well as the “tainted” AC-members (even if they were not serving as AC-members when the events precipitating the financial reporting failure occurred). This result shows that shareholders may take bold and visible actions to “clean house” when such financial reporting failures are revealed. Regarding individual characteristics, under normal circumstances characteristics of an AC-member’s potential ineffectiveness such as multiple board commitments may actually be seen as desirable by shareholders perhaps signaling the quality of the AC-member. However, when shareholder dissent increases these individual characteristics of an AC-member’s potential ineffectiveness increases the likelihood of turnover for that particular AC-members but does not “taint” the other AC-members. That is, characteristics once viewed as slightly positive for specific AC-members become negatives when shareholder dissent increases.

    Citation:

     Kachelmeier, S. J., S. J. Rasmussen, and J. J. Schmidt. 2016. When Do Ineffective Audit Committee Members Experience Turnover?. Contemporary Accounting Review 33 (1): 228-260.

    Keywords:
    Audit Committee, Audit Committee Turnover, Audit Committee Legitimacy Ineffective Governance, Shareholder Dissent, Institutional Theory
    Purpose of the Study:

     The study deepens our understanding of when and why ineffective audit committee members experience turnover and not just that it occurs. The authors broaden the traditional theories used to understand corporate governance to include institutional theory. This theory allows them to predict and observe that the image of effective monitoring can be as important as ensuring effective monitoring itself. Audit committee ineffectiveness is studied from both a broad perspective, financial reporting failures, as well as from a narrower perspective, individual AC-member characteristics. Their analysis focuses not only on the individual ineffective AC-member but also those AC-members “tainted by” (i.e. associated with) the ineffective AC-member. Additionally, the important influence of active shareholders and their dissent on AC-member turnover likelihood due to each type of ineffectiveness is studied.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

     Sample: Hand-collected database of effective, ineffective, and “tainted” AC members from S&P 1500 companies that require annual election of all directors in 2007. Source: Glass, Lewis, & Co proxy service voting recommendations (to infer AC-member effectiveness), Compustat, RiskMetrics, & Audit Analytics Model: Logistic regression with AC-member turnover regressed on ineffectiveness indicators (i.e. financial reporting failure or individual ineffectiveness characteristics) for individual AC-members, indicators if AC-member is “tainted” by another ineffective AC-member, interaction terms for level of shareholder dissent, and governance/company/board-characteristic controls

    Findings:
    • AC-member turnover is associated with financial reporting failures (i.e. main effect)
    • AC-member turnover is not associated with individual AC-member characteristics of ineffectiveness and is, in fact, slightly negative (i.e. main effect)
    • AC-member turnover is associated with shareholder dissent (i.e. main effect)
    • When proxies for shareholder dissent is interacted with financial reporting failure, the main effect loses significance, but the interactive effect is statistically positive.
    • When proxies for shareholder dissent is interacted with individual AC-member characteristics of ineffectiveness, the non-association becomes significantly positive.
    • New AC-members who serve with AC-members present during events that precipitated a financial reporting failure are “tainted” and are associated with increased turnover.
    • AC-members who serve with AC-members who have individual characteristics of ineffectiveness are not “tainted” and are not any more likely to face turnover.
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Governance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Committee Effectiveness, Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Board/Audit Committee Tenure
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Efficacy of Shareholder Voting in Staggered and...
    research summary posted July 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.11 Audit Committee Effectiveness 
    Title:
    The Efficacy of Shareholder Voting in Staggered and Non-Staggered Boards: The Case of Audit Committee Elections
    Practical Implications:

     This study contributes to the accounting landscape in many different ways. First, the results suggest that, through voting and differentiating between AC and non-AC directors, shareholders can influence the AC’s oversight over financial reporting. Second, the study complements previous research on similar topics by showing that dissatisfaction with AC members is also associated with subsequent turnover of accounting financial experts and that low auditor ratification and AC votes are both associated with a reduction in auditor-provided tax services. Finally, the results show that going forward all studies examining the efficacy of shareholder votes should separately consider staggered and non-staggered boards.

    Citation:

     Gal-Or, R., Hoitash, R., and Hoitash U. 2016. The Efficacy of Shareholder Voting in Staggered and Non-Staggered Boards: The Case of Audit Committee Elections. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (2): 73-95.

    Keywords:
    staggered boards, director elections, audit committee, and proxy advisors
    Purpose of the Study:

    Previous accounting research provides evidence that certain characteristics of audit committees (ACs) are associated with improved effectiveness, finding that features such as size, independence, and member expertise all contribute to the quality and effectiveness of the audit committee. Research on the influence of shareholders on audit committee effectiveness is scarce, so this paper examines whether shareholders voting on audit committee members and the frequency of those elections (staggered versus non-staggered) can influence the effectiveness of the audit committee. Because of the way shareholder votes are cast, the votes in director elections provide an important mechanism to monitor and discipline directors.

                Despite the majority of directors standing for election every year, a significant number of firms have staggered boards, in which only a fraction of members face election every year. Under the staggered board regime, shareholders can typically voice their opinion on any given director only once every three years, making it conceivably possible that directors on staggered boards who do not face election following poor performance will be insulated from the scrutiny of shareholder votes. This could lead to a decrease in accountability, responsiveness, and the overall efficacy of shareholder votes. This paper separates itself from others because prior research has not considered the issue of diminished efficacy of shareholder voting and has not examined whether the effectiveness of shareholder votes is similar across staggered and non-staggered boards. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors used cross-sectional time-series data spanning the years 2004 to 2010. The final sample contains over 18,296 director elections taking place in more than 6,786 firm-year observations. The authors also use several measures to test the reaction of ACs to low shareholder approval rates separately for non-staggered and staggered ACs. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find that most AC members serve on non-staggered boards, which typically have higher shareholder votes than staggered boards.
    • The authors find that, consistent with former research, firms with non-staggered boards perform better than those with staggered boards and are more likely to have majority voting rather than plurality voting.
    • The authors find that companies do not necessarily respond to low votes by indiscriminately replacing AC members; instead, they remove and replace financial accounting experts on the AC when shareholders express dissatisfaction with the AC. This appears to only be the case in non-staggered boards; staggered boards do not react to low votes in the same manner.
    • The authors find that low shareholder support is associated with an improvement in the composition and diligence of the AC; however, these associations are prominent only in non-staggered firms.
    • The authors’ findings suggest that dissatisfaction with the AC and the auditor expressed through low votes is associated with a decrease in the tax NAS ratio.
    • The authors’ findings suggest that low shareholder votes in firms with non-staggered boards are associated with changes to the composition and diligence of the AC, changes to the relationship with the auditor and gradual changes to financial reporting quality. 
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Governance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Committee Effectiveness, Board/Audit Committee Oversight
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Auditor Communications with the Audit Committee and the...
    research summary posted March 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 13.0 Governance, 13.02 Board/Financial Experts, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight 
    Title:
    Auditor Communications with the Audit Committee and the Board of Directors: Policy Recommendations and Opportunities for Future Research.
    Practical Implications:

    The review identifies insights for practice and opportunities for research on communication issues between the auditor, the audit committee, and the board. The authors strongly believe that the academic and the practice communities must have a continual dialogue so that standards reflect research, and research is directed to issues with the greatest potential to positively affect public policy. These implications should interest the PCAOB, the SEC, other standard-setters, and regulators that focus on issues related to corporate governance and financial reporting quality.

    Citation:

    Cohen, J., L. M. Gaynor, G. Krishnamoorthy, and A. M. Wright. 2007. Auditor Communications with the Audit Committee and the Board of Directors: Policy Recommendations and Opportunities for Future Research. Accounting Horizons 21 (2): 165-187.

    Keywords:
    board of directors, communication between audit committees and external auditors, corporate governance, financial reporting quality, internal control reports
    Purpose of the Study:

    In 2004 the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) began considering a standard to improve guidance on the communication process between external auditors and audit committees. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 expands and emphasizes the role of audit committees in ensuring the quality of reported financial results. This increased responsibility requires improved and expanded dialogue between audit committees and external auditors.

    In this paper, the authors review the extant academic literature to address relevant issues pertaining to communications between external auditors and audit committees on matters relevant to the integrity of the financial reporting process as well as to the PCAOB-developed discussion questions (DQs). Specifically, they examine literature regarding communications pertaining to overall financial reporting quality, internal controls, the external auditor’s job performance, the form of communications (oral or written), and communications pertaining to the Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) section of the annual report. For each major area, they discuss the implications of the academic research for standard-setters and identify future research opportunities for the academic community.  

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The literature review primarily features research published in academic accounting and auditing journals. In an effort to capture the latest research availableas well as research on emerging topics, such as many of those precipitated by the passage of SOXthe authors also include working papers submitted to major archiving services. The authors searched electronic databases such as Ingenta, ABI/Inform, and American Accounting Association (AAA) Electronic Publications using keywords or combinations of keywords related to the various topics and subtopics discussed in this paper. They also searched Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and scholar.google.com to identify relevant working papers.

    Findings:
    • Financial Reporting Quality:
      • Frequent communications with a well-informed, financially sophisticated audit committee and communications among the audit committee, the auditor, and the full board improve financial reporting quality.
    • Internal Controls:
      • The nature and the extent of communications between the auditor and the audit committee should be sensitive to whether a control weakness or deficiency relates to entity level controls or account-level controls, given the differentially serious implications of these two types of weaknesses.
      • Firm-specific factors (e.g., financial distress, company size) should influence communications and may require the auditor to report directly with the board on matters related to internal control.
      • The audit committee and the external auditor should discuss the quality of the internal audit function and the extent to which the external auditor is able to rely on the work performed by internal audit.
      • The audit committee should discuss with external auditors their policy to protect whistle-blowers.
    • External Auditor Performance:
      • It it is important for the auditor to communicate to the audit committee all relationships with the client, the fees and nature of all services provided, and the extent to which any nonaudit services are beneficial to the audit.
      • The auditor should report all issues and proposed adjustments to the audit committee and the process used for resolving contentious issues.
      • The auditor should also report to the board its evaluation of the quality, effectiveness, and authority of the audit committee in discharging its responsibilities.
    • Other Issues:
      • A review of the literature suggests that the MD&A should be more emphasized in the discussions between the audit committee and the auditors.
    Category:
    Governance
    Sub-category:
    Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Board/Financial Experts
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The effect of an Audit Judgment Rule on audit committee...
    research summary posted February 17, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.02 Changes in Audit Standards, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight 
    Title:
    The effect of an Audit Judgment Rule on audit committee members’ professional skepticism: The case of accounting estimates.
    Practical Implications:

    The findings of this study have important implications for practice. Although prior research has suggested that an audit judgment rule may improve audit quality, findings from this research suggest that audit quality may decrease. This is seen indirectly by the audit committee members’ belief that accounting estimates become less conservative and due diligence decreases when there is an audit judgment rule. However, this was not directly tested, and future research is needed to determine whether audit judgment rules are beneficial or not.

    Citation:

    Kang, Y.J., A.J. Trotman, and K.T. Trotman. 2015. The effect of an Audit Judgment Rule on audit committee members’ professional skepticism: The case of accounting estimates. Accounting, Organizations and Society 46: 59-76.

    Keywords:
    audit judgment rule, professional skepticism
    Purpose of the Study:

    The purpose of this study is to examine how a proposed audit judgment rule impacts the professional skepticism of the members of an audit committee. Prior research has suggested that an audit judgment rule be implemented that requires courts and inspectors to not second-guess auditors’ reasoned judgments when they are made in good faith and in a rigorous manner. Currently, the concern is that auditors are engaging in defensive auditing and fearful of using innovative approaches to auditing accounting estimates. By examining the audit committees reaction to the proposed rule, the researchers are able to examine how audit committees believe this change impacts audit quality and how it impacts the behavior of the audit committee.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Data for this paper was collected prior to March 2015 by using an experiment with audit committee members from Australia. All participants had been on an audit committee in the past, and on average they had been on audit committees for 10.33 years.

    Findings:

    With the introduction of the audit judgment rule, there was an increase in perceived accountability in ensuring the reasonableness of the financial statements from the audit committee members. This was due to a belief that accounting estimates become less conservative and due diligence decreases. This increase in perceived accountability did not necessarily lead the audit committee members to act more professionally skeptical by asking more probing questions. However, the audit committee was more comfortable when they used innovative techniques in developing their accounting estimates. This was due to a belief that innovation leads to improved audit quality. Additional analysis demonstrates that former audit partners showed greater skepticism (by asking more probing questions) than other audit committee members.

    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Governance, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Changes in Audit Standards
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Serving Two Masters: The Association between Audit Committee...
    research summary posted October 19, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 13.06 Board/Audit Committee Processes, 13.07 Internal auditor role and involvement in controls and reporting 
    Title:
    Serving Two Masters: The Association between Audit Committee Internal Audit Oversight and Internal Audit Activities.
    Practical Implications:

    The results speak to the need for regulators to consider the incentives of the various stakeholders when determining policy. Should policy makers consider expanding or restricting specific oversight roles, they should consider the concomitant effects on the internal audit function, and the differential incentives faced by the audit committee and executive management. In addition, as audit committees and managers jointly work or oversee the work of internal auditors, the results suggest that these two oversight participants should consider how their respective incentives potentially bias the focus of the internal audit department away from a mix of activities that optimally address the greater business risks of the company. Likewise, as external auditors assess the organizational status of the internal audit department, they may also wish to consider the apparent focus of internal audit as a potential indication of oversight control.

    Citation:

    Abbott, L. J., S. Parker, and G. F. Peters. 2010. Serving Two Masters: The Association between Audit Committee Internal Audit Oversight and Internal Audit Activities. Accounting Horizons 24 (1): 1-24.

    Keywords:
    internal auditing, audit committees, best practices, internal auditors
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines the association between the activities performed by the internal audit function (hereafter, IAF) and the extent of audit committee oversight of the IAF. Two primary concerns motivate this study. First, relatively little regulatory or best practices guidance relates to the distribution of IAF activities, and virtually no current research has been done about these activities. The authors believe this topic to be important because current New York Stock Exchange listing rules require registrants to maintain an IAF, increasing the pervasiveness of internal audit. The second motivation concerns the relatively incomplete set of audit-committee related regulations. In particular, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) requires audit committee oversight of internal controls over financial reporting and also mandates reporting on a registrant’s internal controls. However, SOX is silent on internal audit, a key participant in both the financial reporting process and the internal control structure. Moreover, SOX does not address internal audit’s reporting relationship with the audit committee or the audit committee’s duties concerning internal audit resources.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The survey questionnaire was mailed to Fortune 1000 companies, after excluding banks. Consistent with much prior internal audit research, the survey was directed to CIAs. The first survey was sent in July 2006 and resulted in a total of 72 usable responses. A follow-up mailing was conducted in September 2006 and produced an additional 62 usable responses. This lead to the final sample size of 134 observations.

    Findings:

    The authors find that the percentage of the IAF budget devoted to internal-controls-based activities is positively related to the measure of the audit committee’s oversight. In particular, audit committees with greater IAF oversight are associated with larger percentages of IAF hours being allocated toward internal controls activities. Moreover, the results suggest that a significant number of Fortune 1000 companies have audit committees that appear to have little oversight of the IAF. This speaks to the relevance and timeliness of the recommendations of numerous parties concerning audit committee internal audit termination/hiring rights and budgetary controls.

    The authors also document significant differences in the allocation of IAF budgets across different activities, an area with very little prior research. They find that the majority of the IAF budget is devoted to internal controls activities, but the remainder, allocated to non-controls activities, is considerable. The evidence indicates that outsourcing arrangements are quite prevalent, but are also quite specific. In particular, the majority of outsourcing hours were spent on Section 404- related activities, with a lesser portion devoted to assisting the external auditor with the financial statement audit. The results suggest that an audit committee’s demand for better internal controls may lead to greater IAF focus on internal controls. 

    Category:
    Governance
    Sub-category:
    Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Board/Audit Committee Processes, Internal auditor role and involvement in controls and reporting
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Materiality Judgments and the Resolution of Detected...
    research summary posted October 13, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.02 Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Management, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.05 Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.01 Earnings Management 
    Title:
    Materiality Judgments and the Resolution of Detected Misstatements: The Role of Managers, Auditors, and Audit Committees.
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study shed light on the complex interplay between analyst following, the pressure that managers face to manage earnings, the pressure that auditors face to protect their reputations in the post-SOX environment, and the important role that audit committees can play in settings in which managers may act strategically to achieve desired financial reporting outcomes.

    Citation:

    Keune, M. B., and K. M. Johnstone. 2012. Materiality Judgments and the Resolution of Detected Misstatements: The Role of Managers, Auditors, and Audit Committees. Accounting Review 87 (5): 1641-1677.

    Keywords:
    audit committees, audit fees, error correction, materiality, stock analysts
    Purpose of the Study:

    Auditors detect and inform client managers and audit committees of misstatements, and these agents must reach agreement about whether managers will correct the misstatements prior to issuing the financial statements. Managers may waive correcting misstatements if auditors and audit committees conclude that the misstatements do not render the financial statements materially incorrect. Yet, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and others have asked the rhetorical question: If a misstatement is immaterial, then why not correct it? Given the absence of bright-line criteria for assessing materiality, judgments about resolving misstatements may be strategic to achieve desired financial reporting outcomes. Analysis of the role of managers, auditors, and audit committees in misstatement materiality judgments is therefore important because it can aid understanding of observed audit and financial reporting outcomes that can affect users.

    In this study the authors make use of regulation concerning the resolution of detected misstatements contained in Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 108 (SAB 108). The implementation of SAB 108 provides disclosure data on detected misstatements that were previously judged immaterial and were not corrected in the financial statements until the release of the new guidance. The authors use the SAB 108 disclosures to measure both the qualitative and the quantitative materiality of misstatements during the periods in which they remained uncorrected.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The data-collection period covers 10-Qs filed from November 15, 2006 to February 28, 2007 and 10-Ks filed from November 15, 2006 to February 15, 2008, and the analyses examine waived misstatements that existed in the financial statements during the period January 1, 2003 to September 30, 2006. To identify these misstatements, the authors read SAB 108 disclosures to find companies that corrected misstatements under SAB 108. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find that managers are generally more likely to waive qualitatively material misstatements as analyst following increases, but this effect is primarily present when audit fees are relatively low.
    • They find auditors are less likely to allow managers to waive quantitatively material misstatements as audit fees increase.
    • The authors also find a negative interaction between audit fees and analyst pressure on the likelihood that auditors will allow managers to waive qualitatively material misstatements.
    • Specifically, auditors’ incentives to protect their reputations weaken the effect of managerial incentives associated with the pressure created by analyst following; auditors are less likely to allow managers to waive qualitatively material misstatements as audit fees increase.
    • The authors find that audit committees with greater financial expertise are less likely to allow managers to waive qualitatively or quantitatively material misstatements than are audit committees with less expertise.
    Category:
    Corporate Matters, Governance, Independence & Ethics, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Earnings Management, Earnings Management, Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Management
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Reaching Key Financial Reporting Decisions: How Directors...
    research summary posted October 13, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.06 CFO Tenure and Experience 
    Title:
    Reaching Key Financial Reporting Decisions: How Directors and Auditors Interact.
    Practical Implications:

    The author of this article believes that this book should be on the must read list of researchers interested in audit committees and financial reporting, regardless of their research approach. For qualitative researchers, the book not only provides valuable insights into the on-process dynamics in reaching financial reporting decisions, but it is also a textbook example of how a researcher may conduct multiple case studies in accounting and gain access to key individuals in organizations to obtain private information about the financial reporting process. For empirical and experimental researchers, the book provides explanations that could be useful in developing their theoretical framework and raises many issues that could be researched in the future. The book should also be of interest to regulators, auditors, accountants, and students who are interested in the financial reporting process and the impact of recent regulation on this process.

    Citation:

    Bédard, J. 2012. Reaching Key Financial Reporting Decisions: How Directors and Auditors Interact. Accounting Review 87 (5): 1819-1820.

    Keywords:
    auditing, financial reporting decisions, CFOs, audit committees
    Purpose of the Study:

    The book, Reaching Key Financial Reporting Decisions: How Directors and Auditors Interact by Vivien Beattie and Stella Fearnley, explores how chief financial officers (CFOs), audit committee chairs, and audit engagement partners resolve issues that have given rise to interactions, discussions, or negotiations, between two of these three participants. It is a follow-up of Behind Closed Doors (Beattie et al. 2001), which received the Deloitte/American Accounting Association’s Wildman Medal in 2007. The book provides an update of the 1999 results in the 2007/2008 U.K. regulatory environment that, as the U.S. one, has undergone significant change since 1999. The book consists of two parts.

    Reading each case is very interesting; it provides the reader with information that normally stays behind “closed doors.” The advantage of a book, compared to a journal article, is that there is more space to provide detailed information about the cases. With approximately 30 pages per case, the reader has a good understanding of each case. Even then, sometimes the author wanted to know more about the interaction issues.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    This article is a book review. 

    Findings:

    The last part of the book presents the cross-case analysis of the 50 interactions using the framework developed in Beattie et al. They find that the key influence on the interaction outcomes has changed significantly since the previous study. The influence of the general company/audit firm context and specific context of the interaction is greatly reduced, while the national regulatory regime now has the strongest influence on the interaction (events, strategies, outcomes, and consequences). In the new regulatory environment, it appears that the higher threats from various regulatory agencies as seen by the CFO, audit partners, and audit committee chairs encourage compliance with accounting and auditing standards.  

    Whether readers need to read Behind Closed Doors to understand this new book depends on their interests. If readers are interested in how directors and auditors currently interact in reaching financial reporting decisions, the current book would be self-sufficient. However, if readers are interested in how the process has evolved over time, reading Behind Closed Doors would be useful.

    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Corporate Matters, Governance
    Sub-category:
    Board/Audit Committee Oversight, CFO Tenure & Experience
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Internal Control Quality: The Role of Auditor-Provided Tax...
    research summary posted September 16, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.03 Non-Audit Services, 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 13.0 Governance, 13.05 Board/Audit Committee Oversight 
    Title:
    Internal Control Quality: The Role of Auditor-Provided Tax Services.
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important to audit regulators as they make decisions regarding policies, and to corporate governance officials as they make decisions regarding the audit firms they engage to provide tax nonaudit services. The evidence indicates that tax nonaudit services accelerate audit firm awareness of material transactions as these services are associated with a lower likelihood of a material weakness in internal controls. In addition, further evidence supports that this finding is not simply due to impaired auditor independence. Overall, this suggests that tax nonaudit services provided by the audit firm improve internal control quality. As regulators and companies evaluate the consequences of tax nonaudit services, the findings in this paper may impact their conclusions.

    Citation:

    De Simone, L., M.S. Ege, and B. Stomberg. 2015. Internal Control Quality: The Role of Auditor-Provided Tax Services. The Accounting Review. 90(4): 1469-1496.

    Keywords:
    auditor fees, nonaudit services, auditor independence, internal controls, tax, financial reporting quality
    Purpose of the Study:

    Audit regulators and companies’ corporate governance officials are charged with understanding and creating policies for auditor provided nonaudit services. To make informed decisions, it is important for these groups to know the benefits and costs of auditor provided nonaudit services. Previous research has reported a positive association between tax nonaudit services and financial reporting quality and audit quality. This paper investigates the relationship between tax nonaudit services and a specific component of financial reporting quality: internal control quality. Specifically, the authors:

    • Examine the relationship between tax nonaudit services and the probability of a material weakness in internal controls (i.e. internal control quality).
    • Examine whether tax nonaudit services are beneficial to companies experiencing a shock to their internal control environment.
    • Examine how the relationship between tax nonaudit services and internal control quality is affected by audit firm tenure.

    The authors also explain the process through which they propose tax nonaudit services affects non-tax financial reporting quality.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected auditor internal control opinions and data necessary to calculate control variables on publicly-traded companies that are subject to SOX Section 404(b). The information collected on these companies was for years 2004-2012.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that companies that purchase tax nonaudit services are significantly less likely to disclose a material weakness. A one standard-deviation increase in tax nonaudit services is associated with approximately a 13% decrease in the rate of material weaknesses relative to the base rate. Further analysis indicates that impaired auditor independence does not account for this result.
    • The authors find that when companies experience a significant shock to their internal control environment, tax nonaudit services incrementally benefit internal control quality relative to other companies.
    • The authors find that the benefits of tax nonaudit services on internal control quality are greater in the early years of audit firm tenure.
    Category:
    Governance, Independence & Ethics, Internal Control
    Sub-category:
    Board/Audit Committee Oversight, Non-audit Services, Reporting Material Weaknesses

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