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    Does the Identity of Engagement Partners Matter? An Analysis...
    research summary posted January 20, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.02 Changes in Audit Standards, 01.03 Impact of New Accounting Pronouncements, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.05 Diversity of Skill Sets e.g., Tenure and Experience, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.01 Going Concern Decisions, 15.0 International Matters, 15.01 Audit Partner Identification by Name 
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    Title:
    Does the Identity of Engagement Partners Matter? An Analysis of Audit Partner Reporting Decisions.
    Practical Implications:

    Auditor aggressive/conservative reporting style may be a systematic audit partner attribute and non-randomly distributed across engagements. Particular market participants (in this case, lenders) appear to recognize and price these differences in reporting style. While the particular mechanism through which these different reporting styles occur is not possible to determine, the results suggest the importance of individual audit partners in influencing audit reporting decisions. Therefore, current regulations in both the US and EU to identify the individual partner’s identity could potentially offer valuable information to market participants.

    Citation:

    Knechel, W. R., A. Vanstaelen, and M. Zerni. 2015. Does the Identity of Engagement Partners Matter? An Analysis of Audit Partner Reporting Decisions. Contemporary Accounting Research 32 (4):1443-1478.

    Keywords:
    auditor attributes, reporting style, auditor identification, audit quality, going concern opinion, Type I error, Type II error, credit risk, insolvency risks, statutory audits
    Purpose of the Study:

    Current debate exists as to whether requiring individual auditor identification would enhance audit quality and, if so, whether investors understand and respond to these differences. This study provides empirical evidence to support the assertions that:

    1. Reporting style (i.e. consistently conservative or aggressive reporting) is an individual partner attribute that systematically differs between partners.  
    2. Investors understand and respond to these differences when assessing a company’s risk.

    This study is especially relevant given both the EU’s decade old requirement to disclosure of audit engagement partner and the recent, similar PCAOB requirement that US audit partners do the same.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use archival methods. They acquired panel data between 2001  2008 of the total clienteles of individual Big 4 audit partners of statutory audits for small, private companies in Sweden. This excludes non-Big 4 auditors and joint auditors.

    Findings:

    In general, the frequency of Type I and II reporting errors is correlated over time for an individual partner both (1) across time for the same client and (2) between clients. As such, aggressive or conservative accounting appears to be a systematic partner attribute. Regarding investors, they appear to understand that partner reporting style is systematic across time and between clients and penalize firms audited by partners with a history of aggressive reporting via higher interest rates, lower credit ratings, and higher credit/insolvency risk. These results are, generally, economically significant.

    More specific results include:  

    • Predictive ability of both accruals and cash flows on future OCFs are lower when prior reporting errors of either Type have previously occurred.
    • Prior aggressive reporting results in lower persistence of current accrual estimates.  
    • Type I (Type II) reporting errors are negatively (positively) associated with abnormal accruals.
    • Conservative accrual reporting is positively (negatively) associated with Type I (Type II) reporting errors in all settings. Aggressive accrual reporting is positively (negatively) associated with Type II (Type I) reporting errors in low-risk settings.  
    • Clients of partners with aggressive reporting style have higher implicit interest rates, lower credit ratings, higher assessed insolvency risk, and lower Tobin’s Q. Conservative reporting styles has no effect on these credit measures.  
    • Past partner reporting style differentially affects market reaction to a new Going Concern Opinion.
    • Past partner Type II reporting errors has an economically marginally-significant effect on insolvency risk.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Audit Team Composition, International Matters, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Audit Partner Identification by Name, Changes in Audit Standards, Diversity of Skill Sets (e.g. Tenure & Experience), Going Concern Decisions, Going Concern Decisions, Impact of New Accounting Pronouncements