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    Commentary on Auditing High-Uncertainty Fair Value...
    research summary posted October 16, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.01 Audit Scope and Materiality Judgments, 09.06 Adequacy of Disclosure 
    Commentary on Auditing High-Uncertainty Fair Value Estimates.
    Practical Implications:

    PCAOB Chairman James Doty recently announced plans to convene a task force on audits of fair value measurements, as well as plans to change the auditor’s report to provide more useful, relevant, and timely information to users of public company financial statements. The authors hope their commentary is helpful to standard-setters’ deliberations, and the authors believe it should be useful to auditing scholars, both as a supplemental reading in auditing courses and a source of ideas to help guide future research designs on auditor and user judgment and decision making for high uncertainty FVA estimates.


    Bell, T. B., and J. B. Griffin. 2012. Commentary on Auditing High-Uncertainty Fair Value Estimates. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 31 (1): 147-155.

    disclosure, fair value estimate, inherent measurement uncertainty, materiality
    Purpose of the Study:

    Debate over the relevance and reliability of fair value accounting (FVA) dates back at least seven decades, as evidenced by excerpts presented above from MacNeal’s 1939 accounting classic, Truth in Accounting. In recent years, accounting and auditing standard-setters in the U.S. and abroad have issued a number of authoritative pronouncements that, collectively, indicate institutional embracement of FVA. However, today’s business transactions, terms of contractual arrangements, and structures of financial instruments and other assets and liabilities are more varied and complex. Against this backdrop, continuing controversy over the usefulness and verifiability of high-uncertainty fair value estimates centers primarily on estimates and associated disclosures pertaining to assets and liabilities that are not traded in active markets, i.e., estimates involving the use of Level 2 and Level 3 inputs in the FASB’s fair value hierarchy in Fair Value Measurement.

    This commentary addresses challenges faced by standard-setters, preparers, users, and auditors pertaining to high-uncertainty fair value estimates. The authors briefly describe the financial reporting environment and the difficulty of obtaining reasonable assurance for fair value estimates with high levels of inherent measurement uncertainty. They then discuss some characteristics of an effective accountability framework for fair value accounting.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    This article is a commentary.


    The authors discuss interdependencies between FVA disclosures and auditing attributes, within the context of an accountability framework for FVA, and propose a combination of changes to these institutional features whose joint effects should (1) improve transparency to users of the inherent (i.e., irreducible) level of measurement uncertainty in high-uncertainty FVA estimates and disclosures, (2) enhance the value to users of the audit of such estimates and disclosures, and (3) help standard-setters improve the clarity of related auditing standards.

    The authors propose additional disclosures on management’s estimation processes, assumptions, and historical estimation accuracy that they believe provide the best avenues for improving the verifiability of decision-useful information on inherent measurement uncertainty. Also, the authors suggest a modified audit report conveying that only negative assurance has been obtained for high-uncertainty FVA estimates, reasons why, and an overview of the procedures performed by the auditor, which should provide a more faithful representation of the true nature and extent of assurance provided to users.

    Auditor Judgment
    Adequacy of Disclosure, Audit Scope & Materiality Judgements