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    The Contagion Effect of Low-Quality Audits at the Level of...
    research summary posted June 26, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 03.01 Auditor Qualifications, 11.07 Attempts to Measure Audit Quality 
    The Contagion Effect of Low-Quality Audits at the Level of Individual Auditors
    Practical Implications:

    This study highlights the importance of individual auditor identification in audit reports. The results are also useful for financial information users, regulators, and policymakers to help them understand the impact of an auditor’s characteristics on an audit. The results are especially helpful for firms trying to understand the reasons behind audit failures and subsequently, to mitigate audit failures in the future.


    Li Baolei Qi Gaoliang Tian, Liuchuang, and G. Zhang. 2017. “The Contagion Effect of Low-Quality Audits at the Level of Individual Auditors”. The Accounting Review 92.1 (2017): 137.

    contagion effect; individual auditors; audit failures; audit quality; auditors’ personal characteristics
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines whether there is a relation between audit failure by an individual auditor and the quality of other audits performed by this individual, and if the audit failure creates a rippling effect onto the rest of the office’s audit quality. In China, unlike most other countries, the identity and personal profile of signing auditors are disclosed in the public domain. This allows for the authors to determine the role of an individual auditor in an audit failure. The authors also consider whether or not qualitative characteristics (experience, gender, education) of an auditor can decrease the contagion effect of audit failure within an office location.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The sample consists of 11,706 audit decisions and 3,357 of which were audited by failed auditors from 1999-2011. The China Securities Markets and Accounting Research (CSMAR) database was used to find financial information and information about the financial restatement reports were found on the China Information website. The qualitative characteristics of auditors used were age, gender, education level, major, CCP membership, and experience. This data was gathered from the CICPA website.


    The authors find the following:

    • Auditors who experience audit failure are more likely to have further failures in the subsequent four years. Additionally these auditors are more likely to have higher levels of abnormal accruals in other audits as well, indicating an overall lower audit quality. This combination suggests that there is a contagion effect between individual audit failure and future audit quality.
    • Offices that experience audit failures and offices that do not have no significant differences in failed audits in subsequent years or audit quality. This suggests that contagion does not seem to occur across different auditors in the same office.
    • The contagion effect can be decreased based on certain qualitative characteristics of the auditor. Specifically, it is decreased for female auditors, auditors holding a master’s degree, and auditors with more auditing experience.
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes
    Attempts to Measure Audit Quality, Auditor Qualifications (e.g. size - industry expertise)