Mining Audit Research: Learn a Few Tips from Researchers - without Going Back to School

Article excerpt

This column is the first of a series that will review accounting research journals to distill practical pointers for busy CPAs. The resulting summaries offer useful suggestions practitioners can apply immediately to day-to-day activities. This installment is devoted to auditors in the field.

"Audit Partner Tenure and Audit Quality," by Peter Carey and Roger Simnett in the May 2006 issue of The Accounting Review, studied the relationship between audit partner rotation and audit quality. The authors examined whether the length of time an auditor worked with a client affected audit quality. They measured audit quality by whether or not a going-concern audit opinion was issued for "distressed" companies; the direction and amount of abnormal working capital accruals; and targeting earnings bench marks. The results found that audit partners who had worked long term with a client were less likely to issue a going-concern audit opinion even when they probably should have and that they had a tendency to target earnings benchmarks. These findings support the frequent audit partner rotation requirement of Sarbanes-Oxley.

Aloke Ghosh and Doocheol Moon, authors of "Audit Tenure and the Perceptions of Audit Quality" (The Accounting Review, April 2005), also examined the length of an audit partner's association with a client and its effect on the audit. Their analysis included the effects on the investor and determined that investors considered earnings quality and audit effectiveness to be higher the longer an auditor worked with a company. This research suggests that limiting the length of time an auditor can serve a specific client may negatively affect a company's share price.

Jacqueline Hammersley, in her March 2006 article in The Accounting Review, "Pattern Identification and Industry-Specialist Auditors," determined that auditors familiar with the client's industry were more adept than nonspecialist auditors at diagnosing complex financial statement misstatements that appeared when performing financial statement analysis. This suggests auditors with specific industry expertise perform more reliable audits in that sector. Industry-specialist auditors are those who work within a specific field such as banking, insurance or manufacturing.

In his work, "Explaining Financial Difficulties Based on Previous Payment Behavior, Management Background Variables and Financial Ratios," Peter Back (European Accounting Review, December 2005) showed it is easier to detect financial difficulties in small and midsize firms when using nonfinancial variables such as payment delays rather than using financial statement ratios, which is standard. A firm's audit program should require both analytical procedures and nonfinancial analysis to obtain the best evidence regarding a client's financial status. While GAAP does not require nonfinancial analysis, this research indicates that use of this audit technique enhances audit decisions.

Research published in the July 2005 issue of The Accounting Review by Mark Nelson, Steven Smith and Zoe-Vonna Palmrose, titled "The Effect of Quantitative Materiality Approach on Auditors' Adjustment Decisions," examined auditors' requirement to adjust a client's financial statements due to material misstatements detected during the audit. The two alternative approaches used in the study are the cumulative approach (which considers only misstatements added during the period) and the current-period approach (which includes misstatements existing at the end of the current period). The methods are known to calculate misstatements differently. The authors suggest the approach used should be discussed with the audit committee. Auditors should be aware of this calculation difference and consider using both methods to provide more thorough information when analyzing the need for financial statement adjustment due to material misstatements.

Note: GAAP does not prescribe how to calculate materiality. …