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  • The Auditing Section
    Exploring Trust and the Auditor-Client Relationship: Factors...
    research summary posted May 3, 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, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.04 Interactions with Client Management in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Exploring Trust and the Auditor-Client Relationship: Factors Influencing the Auditor’s Trust of a Client Representative
    Practical Implications:

    The findings provide evidence that auditors do hold a level of trust in client representatives and that the level of trust is associated with commonplace behaviors of client representative that attract trust.  The results of this study are important to make auditors and auditing standards setters aware of factors that may lead to greater auditor trust of client management and perhaps consider whether there may be a potential for excessive trust to overwhelm the auditor’s professional skepticism. Note that the study was unable to determine whether the levels of trust that the auditors had for the client were such that auditor judgment would be compromised.

    Citation:

    Rennie, M. D., L. S. Kopp, and W. M. Lemon. 2010. Exploring Trust and the Auditor-Client Relationship: Factors Influencing the Auditor’s Trust of a Client Representative. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 29 (1): 279-293

    Keywords:
    Trust, Professional Skepticism, Auditor-Client Relationship
    Purpose of the Study:

    A financial statement audit cannot be conducted in the absence of the auditor’s trust of client management.  The auditor needs information provide by management and the cooperation of management to carry out the audit.  Thus, the auditor has no option but to bestow some degree of trust upon client management.  Yet, if trust is too strong, professional skepticism could be impaired.  Below are the objectives of this descriptive, exploratory study: 

    • To shed light on auditors’ trust of client management using the context of an auditor-client disagreement.
    • To learn about client behaviors (e.g. openness of communication and demonstration of concern) that may influence the auditor’s trust of a client.
    • To learn about aspects of the auditor-client relationship (length of association and frequency of past disagreements) that may influence the auditor’s trust of a client.
    • To gather auditors’ opinions about the importance of trust and about managing the balance between trust and professional skepticism.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected their evidence via a survey questionnaire prior to June 2007. Participants surveyed include 71 experienced auditors (48 partners, 2 principals, 20 senior managers, and 3 managers) from Canadian international accounting firms. Participants were asked to briefly describe a disagreement they had previously had with a client and were asked specific questions about that disagreement.

    Findings:
    • A disagreement experience with the client is relevant to the auditor’s trust of that client.
    • A client’s openness of communication during the course of a disagreement is positively associated with the auditors’ trust of that client representative.
    • A client’s demonstration of concern toward the auditor appears to be trust-relevant.
    • The frequency of disagreements with the client is negatively associated with the auditor’s trust of the client.
    • The length of the auditor-client relationship is positively associated with the auditor’s trust.
    • An auditor’s satisfaction with the outcome of the disagreement is positively associated with the auditor’s trust. 
    • The auditor’s predisposition to trust is not associated with the auditor’s trust of the client.
    • Auditors believe it is important to trust their clients but they also attempt to ensure that trust does not impede professional skepticism.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind, Interactions with Client Management
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  • 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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  • The Auditing Section
    Auditors’ Assessment and Incorporation of Expectation P...
    research summary posted April 16, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.03 Adequacy of Evidence in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Auditors’ Assessment and Incorporation of Expectation Precision in Evidential Analytical Procedures
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study suggest that auditors’ precision assessments may not be well calibrated for relevant precision factors. Thus, auditors may benefit from additional guidance indicating the factors that should be considered for assessing the precision of analytical
    procedures.  Furthermore, audit firms might want to consider integrating some of the findings of this study into future training sessions and/or decision aids that would assist auditors in improving their precision calibration. An insensitivity to important precision factors may lead to over-reliance on analytical procedures, negatively affecting audit effectiveness. Because the allowance for loan losses is an estimate, the results of this study provide insight into factors that could influence the potential effectiveness of audits of estimates. Understanding how auditors evaluate analytical procedure precision for estimates is particularly critical in that analytical procedures may be the only source of assurance for testing these accounts.

    Citation:

    McDaniel, L.S. and L.E. Simmons. 2007. Auditors’ assessment and incorporation of expectation precision in evidential analytical
    procedures. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 26(1): 1-18.

    Keywords:
    Analytical procedures, precision, expectations, substantive test, audit evidence
    Purpose of the Study:

    The precision with which auditors form expectations during analytical procedures is important. The precision of an expectation is a measure of the closeness of the developed expectation to the actual amount and refers to the quality of the expectation, and thus, the quality of the analytical procedure. Professional standards clearly indicate that auditors should be able to form more precise expectations for accounts that are more predictable (income statement relationships generally are more predictable than balance sheet relationships) and when the information related to the account is more disaggregated (i.e., detailed). However, the Public Oversight Board’s (POB) Panel on Audit Effectiveness has found evidence that auditors rely on analytical procedures that do not provide the desired level of assurance, suggesting possible difficulty in assessing precision. To address this finding by the POB, this study investigates auditors’ abilities to assess expectation precision and incorporate their assessments into judgments related to substantive analytical procedures, as required by professional standards. A first step toward developing more effective guidance is obtaining a better understanding of why auditors sometimes fail to effectively apply analytical procedures. As such, the authors aim to answer the following two questions: 

    • To what extent do auditors’ precision assessments reflect the level of account predictability and the level of detail of the data used to form expectations? 
    • To what extent are auditors’ judgments consistent with their precision assessments? According to professional standards, the following judgments should be consistent with auditors’ precision assessments:

    (1)   The level of assurance expected by auditors to be provided by the analytical procedure.

    (2)   The range of the difference between the expected and recorded amount.

    (3)   The likelihood that the difference between the expected and recorded amount is due to misstatement versus non-isstatement causes.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors gathered their data experimentally at a firm training event for audit seniors and above (the training event occurred sometime during or prior to 2005). The participants were asked to review workpapers which included analytical procedures for two different accounts – the allowance for loan losses (a less predictable account) and interest income (a more predictable account). The expectations for the analytical procedures documented in the workpapers were either based on more or less detailed information. After reviewing the analytical procedures, auditors were asked to assess the precision and the level of assurance provided, provide an expectation range for the account balance, and judge the amount of difference between the expected and recorded amount due to misstatement.

    Findings:
    • Overall, auditors assess precision higher when the data forming the expectation are disaggregated (i.e., more detailed) versus aggregated (i.e., less detailed). 
    • Auditors also assess precision higher for the more predictable account (interest income) versus the less predictable account (the allowance for loan losses). 
    • Auditors’ precision assessments for the allowance for loan losses are not significantly different between the disaggregated and aggregated analytical procedures. This finding suggests that in assessing the precision of analytical procedures for less predictable accounts, auditors do not consider the effects of data aggregation. 
    • The results also show that for both accounts auditors judge the level of assurance obtained from the analytical procedures consistent with their precision assessments (i.e., higher assessed precision corresponds with a higher level of assurance).  
    • Counter to the authors’ expectations, auditors’ precision assessments were not related to their judgments of the range of differences between the expected and recorded amounts or the likelihood of misstatement.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Evidence
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  • The Auditing Section
    Auditors’ Assessment and Incorporation of Expectation P...
    research summary posted April 13, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.03 Adequacy of Evidence in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Auditors’ Assessment and Incorporation of Expectation Precision in Evidential Analytical Procedures
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study suggest that auditors’ precision assessments may not be well calibrated for relevant precision factors. Thus, auditors may benefit from additional guidance indicating the factors that should be considered for assessing the precision of analytical
    procedures.  Furthermore, audit firms might want to consider integrating some of the findings of this study into future training sessions and/or decision aids that would assist auditors in improving their precision calibration. An insensitivity to important precision factors may lead to over-reliance on analytical procedures, negatively affecting audit effectiveness. Because the allowance for loan losses is an estimate, the results of this study provide insight into factors that could influence the potential effectiveness of audits of estimates. Understanding how auditors evaluate analytical procedure precision for estimates is particularly critical in that analytical procedures may be the only source of assurance for testing these accounts.

    Citation:

    McDaniel, L.S. and L.E. Simmons. 2007. Auditors’ assessment and incorporation of expectation precision in evidential analytical procedures. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 26(1): 1-18.

    Keywords:
    Analytical procedures, precision, expectations, substantive test, audit evidence
    Purpose of the Study:

    The precision with which auditors form expectations during analytical procedures is important. The precision of an expectation is a measure of the closeness of the developed expectation to the actual amount and refers to the quality of the expectation, and thus, the quality of the analytical procedure. Professional standards clearly indicate that auditors should be able to form more precise expectations for accounts that are more predictable (income statement relationships generally are more predictable than balance sheet relationships) and when the information related to the account is more disaggregated (i.e., detailed). However, the Public Oversight Board’s (POB) Panel on Audit Effectiveness has found evidence that auditors rely on analytical procedures that do not provide the desired level of assurance, suggesting possible difficulty in assessing precision. To address this finding by the POB, this study investigates auditors’ abilities to assess expectation precision and incorporate their assessments into judgments related to substantive analytical procedures, as required by professional standards. A first step toward developing more effective guidance is obtaining a better understanding of why auditors sometimes fail to effectively apply analytical procedures. As such, the authors aim to answer the following two questions: 

    • To what extent do auditors’ precision assessments reflect the level of account predictability and the level of detail of the data used to form expectations? 
    • To what extent are auditors’ judgments consistent with their precision assessments? According to professional standards, the following judgments should be consistent with auditors’ precision assessments:

    (1)   The level of assurance expected by auditors to be provided by the analytical procedure.

    (2)   The range of the difference between the expected and recorded amount.

    (3)   The likelihood that the difference between the expected and recorded amount is due to misstatement versus nonmisstatement causes.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors gathered their data experimentally at a firm training event for audit seniors and above (the training event occurred sometime during or prior to 2005). The participants were asked to review workpapers which included analytical procedures for two different accounts – the allowance for loan losses (a less predictable account) and interest income (a more predictable account). The expectations for the analytical procedures documented in the workpapers were either based on more or less detailed information. After reviewing the analytical procedures, auditors were asked to assess the precision and the level of assurance provided, provide an expectation range for the account balance, and judge the amount of difference between the expected and recorded amount due to misstatement.

    Findings:
    • Overall, auditors assess precision higher when the data forming the expectation are disaggregated (i.e., more detailed) versus
      aggregated (i.e., less detailed). 
    • Auditors also assess precision higher for the more predictable account (interest income) versus the less predictable account (the allowance for loan losses). 
    • Auditors’ precision assessments for the allowance for loan losses are not significantly different between the disaggregated and aggregated analytical procedures. This finding suggests that in assessing the precision of analytical procedures for less predictable accounts, auditors do not consider the effects of data aggregation. 
    • The results also show that for both accounts auditors judge the level of assurance obtained from the analytical procedures consistent with their precision assessments (i.e., higher assessed precision corresponds with a higher level of assurance). 
    • Counter to the authors’ expectations, auditors’ precision assessments were not related to their judgments of the range of differences between the expected and recorded amounts or the likelihood of misstatement.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Evidence
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  • The Auditing Section
    Why Do Auditor’s Over-Rely on Weak Analytical Procedures? T...
    research summary posted April 13, 2012 by The Auditing Section, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.01 Substantive Analytical Review – Effectiveness, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.03 Adequacy of Evidence in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Why Do Auditor’s Over-Rely on Weak Analytical Procedures? The Role of Outcome and Precision
    Practical Implications:

    Analytical procedures are used frequently and increasingly are relied upon as substantive evidence. Based on this study, auditors are insensitive to the impreciseness of the analytical procedure when the results are favorable and may be a cause for over-reliance on weak evidence.  Performing a stronger, more precise analytical procedure caused participants in the favorable outcome situation to become more aware of the weakness of the initial procedure and re-evaluate their evidence strength rating. Further, evidence suggests that having auditors consider the possible weaknesses of an analytical procedure prior to performing the procedure will cause them to rate the strength of the evidence from a weak analytical procedure lower. Overall, this suggests a need to better train auditors in performing and interpreting analytical procedures.

    In a discussion of Glover et al.’s paper, McDaniel asks whether the findings may indicate that auditors in the unfavorable outcome (i.e. there is a material difference) are under-relying on the evidence rather than that auditors in the favorable outcome (no material difference) are over-relying on the evidence. Glover et al. respond that the over-relying of the evidence is of concern to regulators and the alternative does not explain all of the results.  McDaniel also notes that the case study was of a company in the financial industry but that the participants were not required to have any financial industry experience. Glover et al. note that the interest income item is the issue which is not specific to the industry or complicated.  McDaniel also notes concerns about a potential “anchoring” effect as the participants performed their analytical procedures based on prior year working paper results.  In response, Glover et al. discuss this feature of an audit. 

    Citation:

    Glover, S. M., D. F. Prawitt, and T. J. Wilks. 2005.  Why Do Auditor’s Over-Rely on Weak Analytical Procedures?  The Role of Outcome and Precision.  Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 24 (Supplement):  197-220.  

    McDaniel, L. 2005.  DISCUSSION OF Why Do Auditor’s Over-Rely on Weak Analytical Procedures?  The Role of Outcome and Precision.  Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 24 (Supplement):  221-228. 

    Glover, S. M., D. F. Prawlitt, and T. J. Wilks. 2005. REPLY TO DISCUSSION OF Why Do Auditor’s Over-Rely on Weak Analytical Procedures?  The Role of Outcome and Precision.  Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 24 (Supplement):  229-232.

    Keywords:
    outcome; evidence quality; substantive analytical procedures; evidence assessment;
    Purpose of the Study:

    In 2000, a Public Oversight Board panel viewed audit work papers and determined that 20% of the time substantive analytical procedures were weak and provided insufficient evidence to support the conclusion. This study aims to look at one of the possible reasons why auditors’ over-rely on weak, unreliable analytical procedures.  The authors hypothesize that auditors do not consider their existing knowledge about the quality of the procedure when the outcome indicates that the balance is “fairly stated.”

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors performed two experiments prior to 2005 where a material misstatement exists and a “weak, unreliable” (highly aggregated) analytical procedure is used.  In experiment 1, senior associates from one Big 4 accounting firm were asked to perform an interest revenue analytical procedure at the annual grand total level and compare the results to the client’s unaudited balance.  The balance is manipulated so that some participants’ results indicate there is no significant difference (i.e. favorable outcome) and the other participants’ results indicate that there is a significant difference (i.e. unfavorable outcome).  Participants evaluated the strength of the analytical procedure and concluded regarding a misstatement.  Additional disaggregated computations (interest revenue calculations broken down by type of loan and performed quarterly vs. annual basis) were then provided. Participants responded to the procedure strength of the aggregated analytical procedure.  In experiment 2, different senior associates from one Big 4 accounting firm were asked to document the weaknesses of the analytical procedure prior to performing the procedure.

    Findings:

    Experiment 1

    • Auditors attribute more evidential strength to the results of weak analytical procedures if the results indicate no material difference than the identical procedure where the results indicate a material difference.  In addition, auditors in the  avorable outcome are more likely to assign a lower risk of material misstatement and assess the balance as fairly stated, than those in the unfavorable outcome.
    •  After viewing the stronger, disaggregated analysis, auditors in the favorable outcome were more likely to revise their prior conclusion but auditors in the unfavorable outcome did not. Further, auditors in the favorable outcome were also more likely to downgrade their evidential strength assessment of the initial analytical procedure.
    • Altogether, the authors believe this indicates a potential for over-reliance on weak high level analytical procedures and that in situations where analytical procedures indicate no significant difference, auditors are less likely to realize their procedure may produce imprecise expectations and deem it to be a stronger procedure than it really is.

    Experiment 2

    • Auditors who were told to consider the potential weaknesses of the analytical procedure before performing the analysis were more likely to rate the strength of the evidence as lower than those who were not.
    • The prompt to consider potential weaknesses did not reduce the evidential strength assessment as much as requiring the additional analytical procedure in Experiment 1.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Sub-category:
    Adequacy of Evidence, Substantive Analytical Review – Effectiveness
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