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    Fraud Risk Awareness and the Likelihood of Audit Enforcement...
    research summary posted October 12, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.09 Litigation Risk, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.01 Going Concern Decisions 
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    Title:
    Fraud Risk Awareness and the Likelihood of Audit Enforcement Actions
    Practical Implications:

     This paper sheds light on the implications of a going concern opinion, specifically in the context of litigation against the auditor. While prior research has established that a going concern opinion reduces the likelihood of shareholder litigation in bankruptcy proceedings, this study shows that going concern opinions potentially open up the auditor to increased SEC litigation if the financial statements are found to be fraudulent. The authors suggest this should be taken into consideration when auditors are determining the extent of necessary documentation for fraud risk assessment, especially when the client is likely receiving a going concern opinion.

    Citation:

     Eutsler, J., E.B. Nickell, S.W. Robb. 2016. Fraud Risk Awareness and the Likelihood of Audit Enforcement Action. Accounting Horizons 30 (3): 379-392.

    Purpose of the Study:

     The authors aim to examine whether documented awareness of fraud risk affects the likelihood of SEC enforcement action against the auditor in cases of undetected fraud. They acknowledge that financial distress provides incentive for fraudulent activity, and therefore consider the possibility that a going concern represents information that may affect SEC assessment of the auditor’s fraud risk assessment. This study aims to address concern that regulator investigation of audited fraudulent financials may be biased by economic factors or other information that was unknown at the time of the audit. This concern contradicts prior research, which shows that going concern opinions deter litigation against auditors when the client subsequently goes bankrupt.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

     The authors review Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Releases (AAERs) issued by the SEC for companies alleged to have engaged in fraudulent activity between January 1995 and August 2012. They identify 314 instances of alleged fraud, of which 34 received a going concern opinion and 54 had auditor-involved sanctions.

    Findings:

     The authors find that awareness of fraud risk—specifically noting a going concern issue—exposes the auditor to additional scrutiny of regulators when the financials are subsequently found to be fraudulent. Additionally, this paper points out an interesting contrast in the implications of a going concern opinion. Prior research has shown that auditors are less likely to be sued when a client with a going concern opinion subsequently goes into bankruptcy; however, the results in this paper show that auditors giving a going concern opinion are more likely to be sued when those financial statements are subsequently found to be fraudulent.

    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Going Concern Decisions, Litigation Risk