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    A Reexamination of Behavior in Experimental Audit Markets:...
    research summary posted May 4, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.02 Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Management, 04.04 Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions 
    A Reexamination of Behavior in Experimental Audit Markets: The Effects of Moral Reasoning and Economic Incentives on Auditor Reporting and Fees
    Practical Implications:

    These findings suggest that auditors with lower moral reasoning scores (i.e., who tend to cooperate with close allies, but tend to be less cooperative with other parties) might in some cases better adhere to the profession’s duties.  Auditors with higher moral reasoning scores (i.e., who tend to view norms and rules as flexible and interpret them depending on a situation) are more likely to depart from auditing conventions and cooperate with others to their mutual benefit.  There have been similar findings, i.e. contrary to what we might expect in relation to moral reasoning, in other research settings.


    Schatzberg, J. W., G. R. Sevcik, B. P. Shapiro, L. Thorne, and R. S. O. Wallace. 2005. A reexamination of behavior in experimental audit markets: The effects of moral reasoning and economic incentives on auditor reporting and fees. Contemporary Accounting Research 22 (1): 229-264.

    Audit fee, auditor reporting, cooperation, moral reasoning
    Purpose of the Study:

    In this study, the authors examine how “moral reasoning” (as measured by a commonly-used test) affects auditor reporting under different economic incentives, in an experimental setting.  In the audit of the financial statements process, cooperation between auditors and managers is important so that sufficient evidential matter can be obtained. The authors examine whether auditors are more or less likely to cooperate with management, based on the level of moral reasoning, and penalties for mis-reporting. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors assign participants to either a “higher” or “lower” moral reasoning group based on each participant’s “higher” or “lower” score on a commonly-used moral reasoning test.  A lower score on the moral reasoning test indicates that the participant is focused on what is good for him or her whereas a higher score indicates the individual considers what is best for society.  Although not specifically stated in the study, the data appears to have been collected prior to 2005.  The participants used in this study were recruited from MBA classes.  Participants had to consider whether they would truthfully report a “low” outcome, or report “high” even though the outcome was low (i.e. cooperate with management), which would harm investors but economically benefit the participants.  The authors varied the level of penalty for misreporting to observe how this changes behavior. 

    • Moral reasoning and the economic penalty both significantly affected reporting behavior.  The smaller the economic penalty for misreporting the more frequently the participants tended to misreport.
    • As the economic penalty increased, truthful reporting increased.
    • When auditors engaged in “cooperative reporting behavior” (saying outcome was high when it was really low), managers tended to respond with cooperative contracting behavior (rewarding auditor participants).  Such cooperative contracting behavior was more frequent in higher moral reasoning groups, which is contrary to what we might expect (we would expect higher moral reasoning groups to report truthfully more often as opposed to less often). 
    Independence & Ethics
    Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Managmeent, Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions
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