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    Costs and Benefits of Requiring an Engagement Partner...
    research summary posted April 19, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.05 Training and General Experience, 15.0 International Matters, 15.01 Audit Partner Identification by Name 
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    Title:
    Costs and Benefits of Requiring an Engagement Partner Signature: Recent Experience in the United Kingdom
    Practical Implications:

    Requiring engagement partners to sign their names to audit reports appears to result in increased audit quality, earnings informativeness, and audit fees, suggesting that the signature requirement emphasizes personal accountability for engagement partners. Requiring the identification of engagement partners in audit reports would likely have similar effects. Thus, there are both costs and benefits that the PCAOB should consider in making its decision regarding partner identification.

    For more information on this study, please contact Chan Li: chanli@katz.pitt.edu.

    Citation:

    Carcello, J. V. and C. Li. 2013. Costs and benefits of requiring an engagement partner signature: Recent experience in the United Kingdom. The Accounting Review 88 (5): 1511-1546.

    Keywords:
    PCAOB; engagement partner signature; United Kingdom; audit quality; audit fees; costs and benefits.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is considering requiring the identification of the engagement partner in audit reports. Proponents of the proposal argue that it will increase accountability and transparency, which will result in improved audit quality. Opponents argue that engagement partner identification is unnecessary, as audit firms’ quality control systems and the threats of sanctions by regulators and private litigation are sufficient to hold partners accountable. Identifying engagement partners is similar to them signing audit reports in their own name, which the U.K. began requiring in 2009. Because of the similarities between the U.K. and the U.S., it is likely that the effects of requiring engagement partner identification in the U.S. will be similar to the effects of requiring the engagement partner to sign the audit report in the U.K. Therefore, the authors investigate the benefits and costs of requiring partner signatures in the U.K. in the form of changes in audit quality and audit fees. The results are likely informative of the benefits and costs of requiring partner identification in the U.S.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Using publicly-disclosed data on companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) between 2008 and 2010 (the years surrounding the implementation of the signature requirement), the authors examine audit quality changes using the following measures:

    • Abnormal accruals
    • Likelihood of meeting earnings thresholds
    • Earnings informativeness
    • Likelihood of qualified opinions

    The authors also examine the change in audit fees following the implementation of the signature requirement.

    Findings:

    The authors find that following the implementation of the signature requirement, abnormal accruals and the likelihood of meeting earnings thresholds decrease in the U.K. These results suggest that audit clients’ earnings management declines due to the signature requirement. Further, the association between return on assets and stock market returns increases following the signature requirement, implying that reported earnings becomes more informative of firm value to investors following the implementation of the signature requirement. The likelihood of audit clients receiving a qualified audit opinion following the signature requirement also increases, suggesting that audit reporting becomes more conservative with the signature requirement. Finally, audit fees increase with signature requirement. Thus, signature requirement appears to result in higher fees for audit clients. These changes do not occur for U.S. firms or other European firms during the same period and do not occur for the U.K. in the period prior to the introduction of the signature requirement, providing evidence that the changes in the U.K. are the result of the signature requirement.

    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, International Matters
    Sub-category:
    Audit Partner Identification by Name, Changes in Reporting Formats