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    Business Strategy and Auditor Reporting
    research summary posted June 22, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 09.04 Going Concern Decisions, 12.01 Going Concern Decisions 
    Business Strategy and Auditor Reporting
    Practical Implications:

    This study is informative for stakeholders when they are analyzing financial statements. It provides support that a going concern opinion for a prospector firm may not be as alarming as it appears. It also reveals that many influences are at play when auditors are determining which audit opinion is most appropriate for the situation.


    Chen, Yu, J. D. Eshleman, and J. S. Soileau. 2017. Business Strategy and Auditor Reporting. Auditing, A Journal of Practice and Theory 36 (21): 63-86.

    business strategy; auditors; going concern; material weakness
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines the effects that a firm’s business strategy, whether prospector or defender, has on an auditor’s decision in areas requiring significant professional judgment. Specifically, the authors investigate areas involving material weakness and going concern opinions. Prospector business strategies focus on innovation and invest heavily in marketing and research and development. Alternatively, defender business strategies place a strong emphasis on cost efficiency and instead invest heavily in automated production and distribution processes. It is important to note the focus in the study is on business-level strategy, not corporate strategy. Business level-strategy is the way a firm competes within an industry, not what industries it competes in.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    All firms in the study were placed into 3 categories: prospectors, analyzers, and defenders. The authors used 6 characteristics to measure strategy in order to categorize the firms. The final sample size was 4,332 firms from 2000-2013. Financial information was obtained about the firms from databases such as Compustat, Audit Analytics, and CRSP.


    The authors find that a firm’s decision to adopt a prospector versus defender strategy significantly increases the likelihood of an auditor issuing an unfavorable opinion.


    The authors find the reasoning behind this to be comprised of the following:

    • Prospector business strategies are rooted within innovation and therefore likely to take risks. Often times this leads to past performances being more volatile which reduces the auditor’s ability to accurately predict future outcomes. This results in auditors choosing the most conservative choice, a going of concern opinion.
    • Collectively, prospector strategy characteristics such as decentralized control, frequent product changes, and high executive turnover all lead to a higher probability of material weakness.


    Overall, auditors are more prone to Type II errors regarding the issuant of going concern opinions to prospector firms. The evidence suggests that auditors are less successful in predicting bankruptcy for these firms and the going concern opinion is not always warranted. 

    Accountants' Reporting, Auditor Judgment
    Going Concern Decisions, Going Concern Decisions