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    Audit Fees and Investor Perceptions of Audit...
    research summary posted September 9, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.06 Adequacy of Disclosure 
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    Title:
    Audit Fees and Investor Perceptions of Audit Characteristics.
    Practical Implications:

    These findings provide important insight into investors’ current perceptions of auditor independence, particularly in the absence of relative or comparative information, and suggests that it might be useful for regulators, when contemplating additional disclosure requirements, to allocate some attention to disclosures that have the potential to enhance investor perceptions of auditor independence. The findings of this study contribute to the forum of debate concerning the current state of audit-related disclosures and their value for investors.

    Citation:

    Beck, A. K., R. M. Fuller, L. Muriel, and C. D. Reid. 2013. Audit Fees and Investor Perceptions of Audit Characteristics. Behavioral Research in Accounting 25 (2): 71-95.

    Keywords:
    audit fees, disclosure, investor perception
    Purpose of the Study:

    Very little information is provided to the investor about the audits performed or the nature of the relationship between the auditor and client. It is difficult for investors and other external constituents to observe important qualitative aspects of an audit engagement such as the experience level, technical competence, conscientiousness, or objectivity of audit personnel.

    The objectives of this research are two-fold. First, the authors investigate whether the provision of additional referent information about audit fees (percentile rank data relative to other firms in the industry that establish a comparative benchmark) alters user perceptions of audit characteristics. This enables them to determine what investors perceive, based on audit fees, about the audit characteristics, and whether their perceptions coincide with the audit feeaudit characteristic relationships identified in previous archival research. Second, the authors contrast the perceptions of investors who are merely supplied with the total dollar amount of the audit fees with the perceptions of investors who are told that a company’s audit fee is approximately average in comparison to the audit fees of other companies within the same industry. Making this latter comparison offers insights as to how investors perceive audit and company characteristics when lacking additional information, consistent with the current state of audit fee disclosures.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    One hundred and fourteen accounting students were recruited to participate in the experiment. These students were enrolled in an undergraduate auditing course. The instrument was administered in two different semesters, but in the same course. The participants were randomly assigned to groups, and an initial ANOVA verified that there were no differences between the four groups in terms of age, gender, or investing experience. Participants were incented to participate via bonus points in the course. The evidence was gathered prior to January 2013.

    Findings:

    The results of the study suggest that investors do develop perceptions about a company and its audit based on audit fees, as the authors find that providing supplemental audit fee disclosures indicating the relative magnitude of a company’s audit fees significantly influences investor perceptions of auditor independence, auditor effort, and audit quality. Specifically, the authors present evidence that when fees are presented to investors as low, average, or high (as compared to industry averages), investors commensurately perceive audit quality and auditor effort as being low, average, or high, respectively. When not provided with any additional information concerning the audit fee (similar to the present state of disclosures), investors assess audit quality and auditor effort as being average. However, they find that while investors perceive auditor independence as low, average, and high when fees are presented as high, average, or low, respectively, investors not provided with any relative fee information assess auditor independence as low.

    Category:
    Auditor Judgment, Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Disclosure, Audit Fee Decisions