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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Big data analytics in financial statement audits.
    research summary posted September 11, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.09 Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures, 10.0 Engagement Management in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Big data analytics in financial statement audits.
    Practical Implications:

    This article provides a concise introduction to Big Data analytics by providing examples of Big Data success stories in non-audit fields and drawing auditing parallels. It then indicates several characteristics of Big Data which should be considered when implementing Big Data analytics, specifically as they relate to audit procedures.

    Citation:

    Cao, M., R. Chychyla, and T. Stewart. 2015. Big data analytics in financial statement audits. Accounting Horizons 29 (2): 423-429.

    Keywords:
    Big data, analytical methods, auditing
    Purpose of the Study:

    The authors provide examples of Big Data analytics in other fields and suggest analogous auditing applications. They then briefly discuss characteristics of Big Data analytics that are specifically of relevance for the audit setting.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    This study uses examples of Big Data in other industries to provide guidance for auditors on implementing Big Data audit analytics. There is no original analysis or unique data.

    Findings:

    The authors outline several examples of implementation of Big Data analytics in other fields and draws parallels to the audit world.

    • Using Google’s “Profile of Mood States” based on millions of tweets to predict shifts in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The audit parallel: Using similar tools to predict bankruptcy or assess overall financial health of a firm to identify engagements/litigation risk.
    • Walmart uses sales transaction data to predict which items (surprisingly, Strawberry Pop-Tarts) have increased sales in response to dangerous weather patterns. The audit parallel: using sales trend data to identify problematic segments in scoping.
    • Ayata’s Prescriptive Analytics uses data from oil and gas drilling sites, such as images, video, sound, text, and numbers to predict optimal drilling sites. The audit parallel: Using new types of data for audit evidence to confirm existence of events and validate reporting elements.
    • The Los Angeles police department uses data from crime scenes to predict the most likely timing and location of crimes in order to deploy officers. The audit parallel: identifying fraud risks and focusing audit effort toward fraud detection.

    The authors then identify characteristics of Big Data that need to be considered when implementing analytics. They note that Big Data analytics are fundamentally different from procedures based on sampling since all data can be used. They note that Big Data helps determine that things are associated with one another, but not necessarily that one thing causes another. Lastly, they note that a key benefit to Big Data is that analytics can be continuously updated.

    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures Confirmation – Process and Evaluation of Responses
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Big data as complementary audit evidence.
    research summary posted September 11, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.09 Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.03 Adequacy of Evidence in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Big data as complementary audit evidence.
    Practical Implications:

    Incorporating Big Data into an audit poses several challenges. This article establishes how Big Data analytics satisfy requirements of audit evidence, namely that it is sufficient, reliable, and relevant. The authors bring up practical challenges (such as transferring information, privacy protection, and integration with traditional audit evidence) and provide suggestions for addressing them in incorporating Big Data into audit evidence. They also suggest that Big Data can complement tradition audit evidence at every level of audit evidence: financial statement, individual account, and audit objective.

    Citation:

    Yoon, K., L. Hoogduin, and L. Zhang. 2015. Big data as complementary audit evidence. Accounting Horizons 29 (2): 431-438.

    Keywords:
    Big data, audit evidence
    Purpose of the Study:

    This paper frames Big Data in the context of audit evidence, specifically looking at the requirements for something to be considered audit evidence, to provide an argument for the usefulness of Big Data to auditors. The authors address the sufficiency, reliability, and relevance of Big Data analytics; they then outline potential challenges to using Big Data for adequate audit evidence.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors summarize existing literature on audit evidence as it applies to Big Data. They perform no original analyses, but rather discuss the characteristics of Big Data analytics as they relate to regulations and research findings.

    Findings:

    The authors address:

    • Sufficiency: The authors suggest thatwhen used appropriatelyBig Data analytics can meet sufficiency requirements for audit evidence. They provide the example of using an employee’s emails to identify motivation or rationalization of fraud to demonstrate Big Data supplementing traditional audit evidence where traditional methods may be deficient in sufficiently documenting audit conclusions.
    • Reliability: Big Data, being typically from a third party and massive in nature, is argued to be generally reliable for audit evidence. They note that Big Data can validate things such as shipping terms to independently verify cutoff.
    • Relevance: The relevance of Big Data is primarily driven by the timeliness of its availability. Traditional audit evidence is often gathered after-the-fact, however Big Data-based auditing can analyze current trends to provide timely information. They provide several examples, such as using management’s discussion of forecasts. Research has linked overly optimistic press releases to fraud, so using Big Data techniques on earnings forecasts may assist in assigning fraud risk.
    • Integration with Traditional Audit Evidence: The authors acknowledge that Big Data may not always easily bridge into traditional audit evidence, however they provide a discussion of weighting evidenceas you would traditional audit evidenceso that more weight is given to the more sufficient, reliable, and relevant evidence.
    • Information Transfer: Access to data provides benefits which may be leveraged based on economies of scale, however clients may restrict access to proprietary data. The authors suggest specifically contracting for use of internal data.
    • Information Privacy: A common fear of releasing information is that it may be used for a secondary purpose. The authors acknowledge this and suggest that auditors should cooperate with information providers and ensure that information is anonymized.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Evidence, Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures Confirmation – Process and Evaluation of Responses
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Big Data in Accounting: An Overview.
    research summary posted September 21, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.01 Changes in Reporting Formats, 01.02 Changes in Audit Standards, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.09 Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures, 09.0 Auditor Judgment in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Big Data in Accounting: An Overview.
    Practical Implications:

    The availability of Big Data will precipitate substantive changes in accounting education, research, and practice. In education, in particular accounting and auditing, the use of Big Data will increase the statistical and IT content in curricula, probably breaking the current set of limitations represented in the CPA exam. Research in the more traditional fields in accounting, such as capital markets research, will benefit from dimensional increases in data availability and will be conditional on improvements of the researcher’s skill sets in areas such as modeling, statistics, and text mining. Practice, in particular internal audit departments, will be the leading facilitator of accounting Big Data usage, while attempting to keep abreast or in sync with the developments in corporate data utilization in fields like marketing, supply chain, and customer services.

    Citation:

    Vasarhelyi, M. A., A. Kogan, and B. M. Tuttle. 2015. Big Data in Accounting: An Overview. Accounting Horizons 29 (2): 381-396.

    Keywords:
    analytics, audit judgment, enterprise data ecosystem, reporting, standards, storage
    Purpose of the Study:

    The term Big Data is fairly new but seems to be applied in almost every area of human activity at the moment. It is not defined in the rigorous meaning of the word, and it is usually used under the assumption that the readers understand it at the intuitive level. The reason for this popularity is the exponentially growing amount of information made available by developments in computing and telecommunications technology, particularly the Internet and environmental sensing. This paper sheds light on the meaning of Big Data in the accounting and auditing domains.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    This article is a commentary.

    Findings:
    • The definition of Big Data is conditional on the environment being used.
    • Processing needs are nonlinear with the size of data. Even small datasets may be computationally difficult if models are complex.
    • There is a progressive extension of the feasible dataset. Inclusion of sources is mainly an economic and legal issue and not one of feasibility.
    • Newly included data structures contain a wide set of not previously determined/used parameters, which by themselves may be informational.
    • Extended, nontraditional data sources may substantively change the domains of accounting and auditing.
    • Linkages of traditional extended data, as found in ERPs, to new sources of data may provide very strong confirmatory evidence for economic activity.
    • Accounting, auditing, and management extensions into Big Data usage overlap and present powerful opportunities in the next decade but also the re-conceptualization of functions in an age of computer intelligence and automation.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Changes in Audit Standards, Changes in Reporting Formats, Changes in Reporting Formats, Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures Confirmation – Process and Evaluation of Responses
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Client Identification and Client Commitment in a Privately...
    research summary posted October 20, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.09 Individual & Team Conduct - e.g., premature signoff, underreporting hours, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.06 Adequacy of Disclosure in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Client Identification and Client Commitment in a Privately Held Client Setting: Unique Constructs with Opposite Effects on Auditor Objectivity.
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study suggest a course of action for enhancing professional skepticism, so they are important for audit firms specializing in privately held clients, which is an institutional setting where auditors may find it more difficult to maintain their objectivity. The authors suggest that audit firms can use their internal messaging to help individual auditors decrease the harmful effects of client identification. Specifically, audit firms can encourage auditors to (1) take the perspective of financial statement users (e.g., shareholders), (2) view themselves and clients as members of a group assigned the goal of providing accurate financial statements to shareholders, and/or (3) identify more strongly with the audit firm or the audit profession. Furthermore, the authors suggest that audit firms increase client commitment by encouraging auditors to be more attentive and available to clients (e.g., catching up with clients periodically and spending more time at the client site) and encouraging clients to feel free to reach out to auditors.

    Citation:

    Herda, D. N. and J. J. Lavelle. 2015. Client Identification and Client Commitment in a Privately Held Client Setting: Unique Constructs with Opposite Effects on Auditor Objectivity. Accounting Horizons 29 (3): 577-601.

    Keywords:
    organizational identification, organizational commitment, social identity theory, social exchange theory, auditor objectivity
    Purpose of the Study:

    Prior accounting scandals raised concerns that auditors’ relationships with their clients lower auditor independence, which in turn lowers professional skepticism, and ultimately decreases audit quality. Accounting research attempting to shed light on the social processes related to such concerns suggest that client identification can decrease auditor. However, the authors argue that client identification (i.e., “the extent to which an auditor’s self-concept and self-definition are derived from perceived oneness with the client”) differs from client commitment (i.e., “a responsibility for and a dedication to the client, but the auditor and client remain separate psychological entities”). The purpose of this study is to discover if (1) client identification and client commitment are two different ideas, (2) client identification detracts from auditor objectivity, and (3) client commitment enhances auditor objectivity.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected their evidence via research questionnaires emailed to auditors, ranging from staff auditors to partners, at a large regional public accounting firm during the summer of 2013. Survey participants were asked questions about client identification and client commitment, and then were asked to perform a case that dealt with auditors’ behavior in an audit conflict situation.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that client identification and client commitment really are two different ideas.
    • The authors find that client identification is associated with lower auditor objectivity.
    • The authors find that client commitment is associated with higher auditor objectivity.
    • The authors find that number of years of audit experience impacts auditor objectivity for auditors at lower levels in the audit firm’s hierarchy (i.e., staff auditors and seniors), but not those at higher levels in the hierarchy (i.e., manager and above). In other words, more junior staff exhibit greater audit objectivity if they have more years of audit experience.

    These results suggest that audit firms specializing in privately held clients may enhance audit quality by decreasing auditors’ client identification and increasing auditors’ client commitment.

    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment, Independence & Ethics
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Disclosure, Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Individual & team conduct (e.g. premature signoff - underreporting hours)
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Construal instructions and professional skepticism in...
    research summary posted February 17, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.05 Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.02 Documentation Specificity, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.09 Evaluation of Evidence in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Construal instructions and professional skepticism in evaluating complex estimates.
    Practical Implications:

    The findings of this study have important implications for practice. Given the concern from the PCAOB regarding auditors’ lack of professional skepticism, this paper finds a mechanism to increase and improve the level of professional skepticism. In addition, the technique the author finds (providing high-level construal instructions) to auditors is “simple to use, inexpensive, and can easily be tailored for a firm’s specific needs or language

    Citation:

    Rasso, J.T. 2015. Construal instructions and professional skepticism in evaluating complex estimates. Accounting, Organizations and Society 46: 44-55.

    Keywords:
    professional skepticism, material misstatement, auditor judgment
    Purpose of the Study:

    The purpose of this study is to examine whether instructing auditors to create summaries of their audit findings during evidence evaluation in a broad/abstract manner (creating high-level construals) increases professional skepticism. Theoretical research suggests that using these high-level construals (or interpretations) helps individuals to process and understand numerous pieces information. The author suggests that this method could help auditors to ‘see the big picture’, which could help identify patterns in the evidence or possible material misstatements. Then, auditors may be more willing to gather and evaluate additional evidence to test for these potential problems.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Data for this paper was collected prior to April 2015 by using a computerized experiment. Auditors were used as participants in the study, and they averaged 5.4 years of audit experience (ranging from staff auditor to partner). In addition, ninety percent of the auditors had audited fair value estimates in the past.

    Findings:

    Auditors that were given documentation instructions to create high-level construals were more likely to exert professional skepticism compared to auditors given low-level construals (identifying specifically how an estimate could be fairly stated or misstated) or auditors given no instructions. Specifically, they spent more time collecting and evaluating audit evidence, collected more evidence, and rated the risk of the fair value estimate higher. These findings suggest that auditors using the high-level construal instructions process the information from their findings better and recognize a need to gather more evidence when given an incomplete amount of evidence. In addition, when evidence suggests that the fair value is overstated, auditors given the high-level construal instructions are more likely to realize the high risk.

    Category:
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Documentation Specificity, Evaluation of Evidence
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Design and Evaluation of a Continuous Data Level Auditing...
    research summary posted February 15, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.01 Substantive Analytical Review – Effectiveness, 08.08 Projecting Interim Testing Conclusions Year End, 08.09 Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Design and Evaluation of a Continuous Data Level Auditing System
    Practical Implications:

    This paper is intended to prompt auditors to take advantage of easier access to population data in today’s digital business environment. By abandoning sampling auditors can develop much more sophisticated models of behavior that can identify anomalies in ways that were not possible before. Auditors can also be more creative in how they treat data, be it in aggregating it across organizational subunits or in larger and smaller time units. Most innovative of all, auditors and/or managers have the ability to continually update their expectation models by investigating errors and anomalies in real time and correcting them, so that the model is not based on flawed data. We find that such error correction greatly improves the accuracy of analytical procedures. Perhaps the most important finding, however, is that almost all the various expectation models we used gave similarly strong results which implies that what really matters is the size of the data set. Once auditors move away from sampling they will find that population data provides great statistical power when developing analytical procedures that reduces the reliance on finding just the right such procedure.

    For more information on this study, please contact Alexander Kogan.

    Citation:

    Kogan, A., M. Alles, M. Vasarhelyi and J. Wu. 2014. Design and Evaluation of a Continuous Data Level Auditing System. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory. 33 (4): 221-245.

    Keywords:
    continuous auditing (CA), analytical procedures (AP), population data, auditing practice.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how audit practice may change when auditors have access to real time population data, how to use real world data to develop APs for CA, and compare different analytical procedures in a CA context. In the paper we develop a framework for a continuous data level auditing system and uses a large sample of procurement data from a major health care provider to simulate an implementation of this framework. The first layer of the framework monitors compliance with deterministic business process rules and the second layer consists of analytical monitoring of business processes. A distinction is made between exceptions identified by the first layer and anomalies identified by the second one. The unique capability of continuous auditing to investigate (and possibly remediate) the identified anomalies in ‘‘pseudo-real time’’ (e.g., on a daily basis) is simulated and evaluated.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Our simulated implementation of the data-oriented CA system focuses on the procurement-related BPs and utilizes the data sets extracted from the data warehouse of a healthcare management business with many billions of dollars in assets and close to two hundred thousand employees. The data sets include all procurement cycle daily transactions from October 1st, 2003 through June 30th, 2004.  The number of transaction records for each activity ranges from approximately 330,000 to 550,000. Since we have access to population data, the first step is to undertake tests of details to detect violations of key controls. Once that is done we turn to determining whether there are anomalies that do not violate any established controls but which may be nonetheless indicative of potential problems.

    The implementation of the analytical procedure component of the CA system requires creation of the models of expected behavior to enable anomaly detection which we label “continuity equations” (CE). We use advanced statistical models to extract CE from the data, and then by seeding errors we determine how effectively the CE model identifies anomalies. We also investigate the effect of conducting AP on data aggregated in either time or geographically and also the implication of error correction.

    Findings:

    Our research shows that when auditors have access to population data there can be significant changes in the role and sequence of audit procedures. Since data access is not a constraint, tests of detail can be carried out first on the complete population data to find exceptions to controls and for transaction verification. Then APs can be used, again, on the complete population data, to find anomalies. This paper shows that while there are differences in the predictive ability and detection performance of various CE models, all models perform reasonably well and no single model performs better on all aspects. From this two important conclusions can be drawn: First, the choice of a particular model across the candidate CE models is less important than the fact that all models yield fairly effective AP tests.  Our second conclusion from the fact that all the CE models yield reasonably effective analytical procedures is that when auditors have access to complete transaction data, the richness of that disaggregate data combined with the reorganization of auditing workflow to implement pseudo-real time error correction makes BP problem detection robust across a variety of expectation models. In other words, it is the nature of the data that serves as audit evidence that is the primary driver of audit effectiveness, with the selection of the specific AP a second order concern—not because the audit benchmark is not important, but because auditing at the process level makes anomalies stand out much more obviously in the data.

    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Evaluation of Errors - Statistical and Non-statistical, Impact of Technology on Audit Procedures Confirmation – Process and Evaluation of Responses, Substantive Analytical Review – Effectiveness
  • The Auditing Section
    Development of a Scale to Measure Professional Skepticism
    research summary posted May 2, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Development of a Scale to Measure Professional Skepticism
    Practical Implications:

    This study provides accounting firms with the first instrument theoretically designed to measure professional skepticism in auditors.  Objective measures of professional skepticism may be helpful to firms looking to increase audit efficiency or effectiveness, specifically in critical areas such as hypothesis generation, risk identification and fraud detection.

    Citation:

    Hurtt, R. K. (2010). Development of a Scale to Measure Professional Skepticism. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 29(1): 149-171.

    Keywords:
    Professional skepticism, scale development, trait skepticism
    Purpose of the Study:

    Professional standards have stressed the importance of individual auditor professional skepticism from the earliest codification. Although the concept of professional skepticism is widely accepted, there has been little research on exactly what comprises skepticism and how it can be measured. Professional skepticism is a complex characteristic; scales previously used to measure skepticism were not developed with the multi-dimensionality of professional skepticism in mind.  It can therefore, become difficult to draw appropriate conclusions or make comparisons with these measures. The study identifies two distinct types of professional skepticism: 1) trait skepticism, (defined as: relatively stable, an enduring quality of an individual) and 2) state skepticism (defined as: a temporary condition aroused by a given situation).  This particular study focuses only on the former and further delineates six character components of trait skepticism.  These characteristics are drawn from a careful review of the auditing standards as well as research in auditing, psychology, philosophy, and consumer behavior. The six characteristics are as follows:

    • A questioning mind
    • A suspension of judgment
    • A search for knowledge
    • Interpersonal understanding
    • Self-esteem
    • Autonomy      

    The author considers each of these component characteristics and develops a scale to more adequately and appropriately measure the trait skepticism of auditors. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The author gathers 220 potential questions measuring each of the component characteristics identified. This large group of questions was further reduced based on several pre-tests performed on groups of varying size of undergraduate and graduate level business students. Once the scale had been reduced to a 30-item test, it was administered to 200 auditors from a major international accounting firm. To ensure that the scale was reliable, the test was re-administered to 88 auditors from the same international firm.  It is important to note that the scale was validated using auditors from only one major firm and was validated prior to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

    Findings:
    • The results provide preliminary evidence that the skepticism scale developed here is an instrument with appropriate reliability and validity.  
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind
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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Differential Evaluation of Audit Evidence from Fixed versus...
    research summary posted November 24, 2014 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.02 Sample Selection – use of statistical sampling, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.03 Adequacy of Evidence in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Differential Evaluation of Audit Evidence from Fixed versus Sequential Sampling
    Practical Implications:

    The results have implications about situations in which others evaluate the auditor’s work after the fact, such as the audit review process or the examination of audit evidence by regulators, jurors, or judges. In such situations, decision makers need to evaluate the strength of previously gathered audit evidence, and to judge the extent to which the evidence supports a previously reached conclusion. Regarding the assessed sufficiency of audit evidence, the results suggest that evaluators of the auditor’s work could require larger sample sizes under sequential sampling than under fixed sampling, to support the same level of confidence in the auditor’s opinion. Although sequential sampling might in fact increase audit efficiency, the findings suggest that this benefit could be negated by subsequent unfavorable assessment of audit evidence from a sequential sampling plan.

    For more information on this study, please contact Marietta Peytcheva.

    Citation:

    Gillett, P. R., and M. Peytcheva. 2011. Differential evaluation of audit evidence from fixed versus sequential sampling. Behavioral Research in Accounting 23 (1): 65-85. 

    Keywords:
    sampling plan; audit evidence; evidence evaluation; stopping rules
    Purpose of the Study:

    The authors examine whether the assessed value of audit evidence depends on whether it was collected using fixed or sequential sampling. Opposing views are held by the two main schools of statistical theory: Bayesian statisticians maintain the value of audit evidence is the same, regardless of the sampling plan, whereas frequentist statisticians argue the sampling plan should affect evidence evaluation. This study tests empirically how using fixed versus sequential sampling plans influences the subsequent evaluation of audit evidence.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    In two experiments, audit students and practicing auditors assess the strength of audit evidence obtained using different sampling plans. The experimental task involves testing of internal controls as part of the audit of the revenue cycle. The research evidence is collected in 2005—2008.

    Findings:

    Audit evidence obtained from a fixed sampling plan is invariably assessed as stronger, by both audit students and practicing auditors. This finding is consistent with frequentist statistical theory, but not with Bayesian theory. Participants in the first experiment who considered the fixed sampling plan (the plan more widely used in audit practice) were prone to consider additional factors (such as whether or not they had gathered the evidence themselves) in their assessment of the strength of observed audit evidence. Participants exposed to the sequential plan, however, did not respond to these additional factors but assigned generally lower strength to evidence obtained from a sequential plan. Qualitative data on the reasoning behind auditors’ observed preferences suggest that auditors perceive fixed sampling plans as unbiased. Sequential plans, in contrast, are perceived to leave room for bias. The main concern auditors report regarding the sequential sampling plan is that this plan presents samplers with an opportunity to influence the test results by increasing or altering sample size until the desired results are observed.

    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Evidence, Sample Selection – use of statistical sampling
  • The Auditing Section
    Discussion of: “The Importance of Account Relations when R...
    research summary posted May 7, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.05 Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.01 Substantive Analytical Review – Effectiveness in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Discussion of: “The Importance of Account Relations when Responding to Interim Audit Testing Results”
    Practical Implications:

    Bedard’s (2006) discussion of Vandervelde (2006) reinforces the fact that auditors do incorporate the relationships among accounts in their responses to increases in misstatement risk.  He also suggests that it is important to consider how this pattern maps to auditors’ risk assessments at the financial statement assertion level.  His discussion emphasizes that in response to fee pressure, auditors may shift planned audit hours between accounts (i.e., from low risk areas to high risk areas), rather than increasing overall planned audit hours.  Finally, despite Bedard’s (2006) caveat that this result could be due to auditor self-presentation concerns or a change in the mix of audit procedures that does not result in increased hours, it is important to note that auditors do not appear to reduce planned audit hours in response to fee pressure – and that this could reflect auditors’ cognizance of the heightened importance that investors and the market currently placed on the role of auditing.

    Citation:

    Bedard, J. 2006. Discussion of: “The Importance of Account Relations when Responding to Interim Audit Testing Results”. Contemporary Accounting Research. 23(3): 823 – 831.

    Keywords:
    Account relations, audit planning, interim evidence, profit pressure, auditing procedures - nature, timing, and extent
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study is a conference discussion of Vandervelde (2006).  The purpose of the discussion is to critically analyze the motivation, hypotheses, experimental design, results, and implications of Vandervelde (2006).  Please see the summary of Vandervelde (2006) for further details.  

    The discussant first reviews research on risk-based auditing. The discussant believes that Vandervelde (2006) is studying an important aspect of the audit by examining how auditors incorporate relationships between accounts in their audit testing. Regarding Vandervelde’s (2006) predictions, the discussant believes that Vandervelde’s (2006) hypotheses could more accurately reflect the mathematical model’s predictions. The following points illustrate the primary differences between the expectations in Vandervelde (2006) and Bedard (2006).

    • In response to Vandervelde’s (2006) prediction that the increase in planned audit hours as the severity of the problem increases is greater for related vs. unrelated accounts, the discussant observes auditors may compensate for increased hours in higher risk areas of the audit with decreased hours in lower risk areas of the audit, which explains why prior studies find that auditors do not always respond to risk.  
    • Contrary to Vandervelde (2006), the discussant suggests that the increase in planned audit hours for low-relatedness accounts is not mitigated by fee pressure; rather there is a decline in planned audit hours, which is heightened by fee pressure.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The discussant reviews and provides suggestions for Vandervelde’s (2006) motivation, hypotheses, experimental design, and results.  The discussant also integrates Vandervelde (2006) in the context of prior research and suggests avenues for future research.

    Findings:
    • The discussant observes that Vandervelde’s (2006) findings suggest that auditors do consider the relationship between accounts, as planned audit hours increase for accounts related to the account where the problem was discovered and do not materially change for nonrelated accounts. 
    • The discussant states that Vandervelde’s (2006) finding that profit pressure does not influence auditors’ response to increases in risk is consistent with the market scrutiny on audit quality spurring audit firms to decrease emphasis on profit pressure.  However the discussant also observes that this finding could have been an artifact of the experimental design of the study, as auditors may have been reluctant to show that they are affected by profit pressure.  Further, this result suggests that auditors may change the mix of audit procedures for an account to address increases in risk, rather than changing the planned hours for that account.   
    • The discussant suggests that it could be informative to examine how auditors react to risks at the assertion level, rather than the account level. He suggests that accounts can be classified as “derived” vs. “generating transactions”, which can assist in mapping to assertions.  In Vandervelde’s (2006) context, the purchases account would be classified as “generating transactions”, while accounts payable and inventory are classified as “derived” (from purchases on account/disbursements and purchases/sales, respectively).  Thus, loss of documents would suggest issues with the completeness assertion for purchases, accounts payable and inventory.  The loss of documents should prompt an auditor to adjust audit procedures related to completeness, but not other assertions.
    Category:
    Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk, Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent
    Sub-category:
    Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, Substantive Analytical Review – Effectiveness
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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Do changes in audit actions and attitudes consistent with...
    research summary posted October 22, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.06 Earnings Management, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Do changes in audit actions and attitudes consistent with increased auditor scepticism deter aggressive earnings management? An experimental investigation
    Practical Implications:
    • Regulators and standard setters have been concerned that we do not know which audit actions most likely detect fraud.  An understanding of what audit procedures are likely to discourage managers from committing fraud is valuable. 
    • Specifically, the study shows that changes in the nature and extent of audit procedures combined with increased skepticism via critical inquiry are helpful in deterring potentially fraudulent behavior. 
    • Similar changes in audit procedures also affect management’s judgment about the ethicality of potentially fraudulent behavior. 
       
    Citation:

    Chen, Q., K. Kelly, and S. Salterio. 2012. Do changes in audit actions and attitudes consistent with increased auditor scepticism deter aggressive earnings management? An experimental investigation. Accounting, Organizations and Society 37 (2): 95-115.  

    Keywords:
    Fraud, Audit Procedures, Professional Skepticism, Earnings Management
    Purpose of the Study:

    Recent years have brought increased focus on the financial statement audit as not just a means of detection but a deterrent to fraud.  The link between detection and deterrence is made in practice because an increase in the ability to detect fraud on the part of the auditor (if widely known) should also lead to an increase in the ability of the audit process to deter fraud.
    The current study seeks to identify whether different audit procedures and attitudes toward management deter aggressive earnings management that is possibly fraudulent.  Using the experimental research approach allows the authors to focus on a scenario where the increase in deterrence is not due to an increase in the probability of detection but is most likely due to the specific changes in the audit approach tested. 
     

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Corporate managers were placed in different experimental conditions to examine differences in their assessments about potentially fraudulent behavior.  Participants were told they were the manager of a firm for which rotational audits are performed.  In the current year, the manager’s division was not being audited, but they were made aware of the audit procedures being performed in other divisions.  In one condition, the procedures were the same as last year (SALY).  In another condition, the extent or quantity of evidence collected would be increased.  In the third condition the nature of evidence collected was increased (i.e. confirmations rather than internal documentation).  Within each of these three conditions half of the participants would also note an increase in auditor skepticism via more critical inquiry procedures while the other half would not.  Managers were then asked to assess a level of potential earnings management in their division as well as the ethicality of any potential earnings management.  The experiment was web-based.

    Findings:
    • When managers find out about a change in the nature of audit work being performed at other divisions, they respond by reducing earnings management in their own division as compared to the condition where procedures were the same as last year or where the change in procedure is an increase in audit evidence only. 
    • Managers exhibited this behavior even though the changes in procedures did not affect their division. 
    • Combining a more skeptical auditor attitude toward a manager with a change in the nature of audit evidence, the extent of evidence collected, or a change in the nature of the evidence, reduces earnings management as compared to the same as last year condition
    • An increase in evidence collected alone, or more critical inquiry alone does not significantly deter earnings management relative to the condition where procedures were the same as last year.
    • The results of management’s assessment of the ethicality of potential earnings management mirrors the results for the planned level of earnings management described above.  These results hold, even after considering manager ethical disposition.
       
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Engagement Management, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Earnings Management, Interactions with Client Management