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    Exploring Trust and the Auditor-Client Relationship: Factors...
    research summary posted May 3, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management 
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    Title:
    Exploring Trust and the Auditor-Client Relationship: Factors Influencing the Auditor’s Trust of a Client Representative
    Practical Implications:

    The findings provide evidence that auditors do hold a level of trust in client representatives and that the level of trust is associated with commonplace behaviors of client representative that attract trust.  The results of this study are important to make auditors and auditing standards setters aware of factors that may lead to greater auditor trust of client management and perhaps consider whether there may be a potential for excessive trust to overwhelm the auditor’s professional skepticism. Note that the study was unable to determine whether the levels of trust that the auditors had for the client were such that auditor judgment would be compromised.

    Citation:

    Rennie, M. D., L. S. Kopp, and W. M. Lemon. 2010. Exploring Trust and the Auditor-Client Relationship: Factors Influencing the Auditor’s Trust of a Client Representative. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 29 (1): 279-293

    Keywords:
    Trust, Professional Skepticism, Auditor-Client Relationship
    Purpose of the Study:

    A financial statement audit cannot be conducted in the absence of the auditor’s trust of client management.  The auditor needs information provide by management and the cooperation of management to carry out the audit.  Thus, the auditor has no option but to bestow some degree of trust upon client management.  Yet, if trust is too strong, professional skepticism could be impaired.  Below are the objectives of this descriptive, exploratory study: 

    • To shed light on auditors’ trust of client management using the context of an auditor-client disagreement.
    • To learn about client behaviors (e.g. openness of communication and demonstration of concern) that may influence the auditor’s trust of a client.
    • To learn about aspects of the auditor-client relationship (length of association and frequency of past disagreements) that may influence the auditor’s trust of a client.
    • To gather auditors’ opinions about the importance of trust and about managing the balance between trust and professional skepticism.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected their evidence via a survey questionnaire prior to June 2007. Participants surveyed include 71 experienced auditors (48 partners, 2 principals, 20 senior managers, and 3 managers) from Canadian international accounting firms. Participants were asked to briefly describe a disagreement they had previously had with a client and were asked specific questions about that disagreement.

    Findings:
    • A disagreement experience with the client is relevant to the auditor’s trust of that client.
    • A client’s openness of communication during the course of a disagreement is positively associated with the auditors’ trust of that client representative.
    • A client’s demonstration of concern toward the auditor appears to be trust-relevant.
    • The frequency of disagreements with the client is negatively associated with the auditor’s trust of the client.
    • The length of the auditor-client relationship is positively associated with the auditor’s trust.
    • An auditor’s satisfaction with the outcome of the disagreement is positively associated with the auditor’s trust. 
    • The auditor’s predisposition to trust is not associated with the auditor’s trust of the client.
    • Auditors believe it is important to trust their clients but they also attempt to ensure that trust does not impede professional skepticism.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind, Interactions with Client Management
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