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    Auditor Industry Specialization, Service Bundling, and...
    research summary posted September 17, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.03 Non-Audit Services, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.02 Industry Expertise – Firm and Individual 
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    Title:
    Auditor Industry Specialization, Service Bundling, and Partner Effects in a Mining-Dominated City.
    Practical Implications:

    The authors contribute by providing some of the first evidence of service bundling in the economics of auditing literature. In doing so, they broaden the notion that strategic pricing occurs around audit switches. This study contributes to prior mixed findings of the existence of industry specialist premiums in the small-client segment, suggesting an additional reason why these mixed findings might occur. Where opportunities to package services are attractive, auditors may strategically price and discount audits with bundling premiums in mind. Where potential for such bundling opportunities is less attractive, it is possible the auditor may instead seek to generate premiums in the audit service.

    Citation:

    Ferguson, A., G. Pündrich, and A. Raftery. 2014. Auditor Industry Specialization, Service Bundling, and Partner Effects in a Mining-Dominated City. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 33 (3): 153-180.

    Keywords:
    audit fees, industry specialization, mining industry, non-audit services, second-tier firms, service bundling
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines auditor industry specialization effects in Perth, a remote mining town in Australia characterized by a large number of small, homogeneous firms. In this study, the authors consider whether an auditor industry specialist may strategically price a bundle of services in the small-client segment. They argue that the small company sector is a good environment to consider the existence of service bundling. The setting is the mining development stage entity (MDSE) market in Perth, the biggest industry and city in Australia by client numbers. This market is characterized by small (high-growth) firms where auditing is arguably of less importance to the client compared to tax advisory, the other primary service provided to them. Further, the firms are relatively homogeneous, an appealing feature of industry studies. Thus, the authors have arguably an attractive setting to observe service bundling by an industry specialist.

    First, the authors examine whether industry specialist auditors earn audit fee premiums in the Perth MDSE segment. To do this, an audit pricing model is developed and includes controls likely to impact on audit fees in a mining industry context. Second, the authors redefine the dependent variable to consider the pricing implications of the bundle of services provided by industry specialists.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors utilize an OLS regression model to test for audit fee premiums with respect to brand name and industry leadership. A sample of 1,799 firms listed on the ASX as of December 31, 2009 is obtained. Of the 1,799 listed entities nationally, 668 (37.13 percent) are domiciled in Perth, making it the largest city-level market by client numbers in Australia. At the city-level, the market share of non-Big 4 firms is 70.1 percent in Perth.

    Findings:

    The authors find no evidence of auditor industry leadership audit fee premiums accruing to either Big 4 (EY) or non-Big 4 (BDO) leaders. However, when the dependent variable is redefined to include non-audit services (NAS), the industry leader, BDO, obtains a total fee premium. This finding is of added interest given that the industry leader is a second-tier firm, implying that strategic audit pricing, such as service bundling, is not confined to Big 4 auditors. Nor is it confined to merely one location, since bundling premiums are observed at the national level. The authors argue MDSEs have little in the way of financial statement complexity, so they do not value specialist audits, but rather are willing to pay more for NAS. Last, in supplementary analysis, the authors find some evidence of partner-scale effects.

    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Client Acceptance and Continuance, Independence & Ethics
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Industry Expertise – Firm and Individual, Non-audit Services