Graziadio Working Paper Series
 

Title

Do Audit Report Disclosures Lead to Increased Liability Exposure? An Investigation of Jurors’ Consideration of Auditors’ Disclosure of Significant Deficiencies in Internal Control

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Proposals for increased transparency and disclosure within audit reports are consistently met with conflict. Some suggest that auditor disclosures increase liability exposure for auditors, and should be the responsibility of management. Others suggest that such disclosures are beneficial to the users of the financial statements. Currently, the PCAOB is proposing a requirement for increased disclosure within the audit report on financial statements. This study proposes a similar requirement within the Section 404 auditor’s report on internal controls. A 2x2 between-subjects experiment manipulated the disclosure level (disclosed/not disclosed) and the auditability of the significant deficiency in controls (less auditable/more auditable) for a sample of 93 jury-qualified individuals. Results indicate that auditors may experience benefits of decreased liability exposure when they provide additional disclosure within the Section 404 report on internal controls. However, these favorable conditions are only present when the auditor discloses a deficiency in internal controls that is more auditable (less subjective), and not when the control is less auditable (more subjective). Results suggest that auditors are perceived as more blameworthy for their inaccurate judgments in subjective situations, and that this perception cannot be overcome by providing a disclosure within the 404 report. Implications for standard setters, auditors, and regulators are discussed.

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