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    Do Audit Clients Successfully Engage in Opinion Shopping?...
    research summary posted October 12, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 15.0 International Matters, 15.01 Audit Partner Identification by Name, 15.03 Audit Partner Rotation 
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    Title:
    Do Audit Clients Successfully Engage in Opinion Shopping? Partner-Level Evidence
    Practical Implications:

     These findings should be of interest to policy makers in China because, among other implications, the results suggest that Chinese regulators should pay attention to the switching of audit partners before they reach tenure limit for mandatory rotation. Partner-level opinion shopping could be more difficult to detect in markets in which the identity of the engagement partner is not disclosed, and it may therefore be prevalent in those markets, such as the United States.

    Citation:

     Chen, F., A. Peng, S. Xue, Z. Yang, and F. Ye. 2016. Do Audit Clients Successfully Engage in Opinion Shopping? Partner-Level Evidence. Journal of Accounting Research 54 (1): 79-112.

    Purpose of the Study:

    Opinion shopping refers to the practice by which audit clients seek alternative auditors willing to give a clean audit opinion when the incumbent auditor is likely to issue an unclean opinion. Existing studies examine whether companies successfully engage in opinion shopping through switching audit firms using data from such countries as China, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this study, the authors examine evidence of switching audit partners within the same firm rather than switching to another firm for clean audit opinions, which they term “partner-level opinion shopping.” Statements from the PCAOB suggest that partner-level rotation shopping has become a regulatory concern and the regulators believe that this practice may be more prevalent if the names of engagement partners are not publicly disclosed; however, there is no empirical evidence on the existence and extent of partner-level opinion shopping to the best of the authors’ knowledge. Consequently, the authors attempt to fill this gap in the auditing literature by testing whether companies successfully engage in partner-level opinion shopping.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors decided to use data from China because engagement partners in China are required to sign the audit report, which enables the authors to identify partner switches before partners reach their mandatory rotation limit. The sample consists of observations from 1998 to 2012. They use an audit reporting model to determine a company’s probability of receiving a modified audit opinion (MAO) with and without a partner switch. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find consistent results for partner-level opinion shopping for both field partner and review partner switching.
    • The authors’ findings support the notion that partner-level opinion shopping is less likely to be successful for companies audited by firms organized as partnerships.
    • The authors find no evidence suggesting that outgoing audit partners are overly conservative compared with an average audit partner with an expected conservatism score of zero; the authors do not find evidence that incoming partners are less conservative than outgoing partners.
    • The authors find evidence that Chinese companies successfully engage in partner-level opinion shopping.
    • The authors find that the extent of success in opinion shopping is affected by client importance and the organizational forms of audit firms.
    • The authors’ results show that companies that successfully engage in opinion shopping report significantly lower-quality earnings, as indicated by higher discretionary accruals and a higher likelihood of reporting small profits.
    • The authors find direct evidence that incoming audit partners, for companies that obtain more favorable audit opinions after a partner switch, have a higher propensity to issue clean opinions than outgoing partners.
    Category:
    International Matters
    Sub-category:
    Audit Partner Identification by Name, Audit Partner Rotation