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Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Management

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Christopher P. Agoglia

Second Advisor

G. Bradley Bennett

Subject Categories

Accounting

Abstract

Maintaining a positive auditor-client relationship is critical for audit firms, particularly during sensitive events. For instance, audit firms state in transparency reports that they take steps to minimize disruption during audit partner rotations, yet it is unclear what these actions entail or the potential effects of these actions on auditor independence and audit quality. I use multiple methods to provide insight into these practices and their related effects. First, I interview 20 audit partners to learn about the process by which audit firms manage the auditor-client relationship during sensitive partner rotation events. Interviewees describe how audit firms identify appropriate partner candidates and procedures followed to select and prepare the next lead partner. Respondents also elaborate on firms’ ongoing relationship-managing activities, including the assignment of non-decision-making liaisons (often referred to as relationship partners or "RPs") to a subset of engagements to assist in navigating the auditor-client relationship during sensitive events (i.e., in preparation for upcoming partner rotations and when contentious auditor-client issues arise). Second, I conduct an experiment with financial executives to examine the influence that RPs may have on the resolution of contentious auditor-client issues. I also consider how RP influence may vary depending on the extent to which the audit partner and client manager have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to resolve the issue (i.e., negotiation ripeness). I find that, in a traditional setting in which a RP is not involved, client managers concede less toward an audit partner's more appropriate position when the negotiation has reached a more ripe stage than when the negotiation stage is less ripe. However, I find it is at a more ripe stage that RP intervention is more effective in moving client managers toward a resolution, limiting the risk of seeking alternative methods of resolution that may impair the auditor-client relationship (e.g., issuing a qualified audit opinion). Collectively my findings inform regulators and researchers about the ongoing process by which audit firms manage the auditor-client relationship during sensitive events and how one common approach for managing the auditor-client relationship (i.e., assignment of RPs to a subset of engagements) influences the auditor-client relationship and audit quality.

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