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FAR Working Paper 2020/03-02 (updated feb 2024): Does status equal substance? The effects of specialist social status on auditor assessments of complex estimates

Accepted for publication in TAR: Auditing standards require that auditors' reliance on a specialist is commensurate with the specialist's competence. In assessing competence, auditors encounter cues diagnostic of the specialist's social status but less so of competence. In an experiment, we manipulate specialist status and find that auditors mistake status for competence unless they are prompted to separate the constructs. This raises the possibility that auditors could over-rely on high-status specialists. However, auditors also assess high-status specialists as more influential and, when the specialist disagrees with the client, they rely more on high-status specialists because of this perceived influence. Thus, high-status specialists can increase auditors' willingness to challenge the client by providing a strong ally. Additional analyses suggest that auditors are aware that they rely on the specialist's influence rather than competence, indicating that auditors do not use the process that auditing standards envision to evaluate and rely on specialists. 


Dr. Justin Leiby

Justin Leiby is an Associate Professor of Accountancy, Disruption & Innovation Scholar, & Professor Ken Perry Faculty Fellow at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business. Justin’s teaching infuses empathic decision-making concepts into auditing, analytics, and risk management, helping students “bring empathy to the data” to better serve stakeholders. Professor Leiby’s research focuses on the motivations and incentives of professionals in areas such as professional skepticism, quality control, human capital, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Professor Leiby has published research in leading scholarly journals and has presented to a variety of scholarly, regulatory, and professional audiences in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He earned a doctorate at the University of Illinois and undergraduate degrees in Accounting and German at the University of Pittsburgh.

Prof. dr. Anna Gold

Anna Gold is Professor of Auditing at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Adjunct Professor at Norwegian School of Economics (NHH). She earned her PhD at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are in the judgment and decision-making area, primarily applied to the field of auditing. Her research has focused on the impact of regulatory changes (e.g., fraud consultation, audit firm rotation, and auditor reporting standard changes) on judgments and decisions of auditors, preparers, and financial statement users. She has also examined how auditors and audit firms manage errors and whether varying the error management climate affects auditors’ error reporting willingness and learning. Her current work focuses on how auditors use specialist advice, the communication between auditors and audit committees, and auditors’ use of audit technology. 

She has published her research in outlets such as The Accounting ReviewContemporary Accounting ResearchAuditing: A Journal of Practice & TheoryAccounting Horizons, Journal of Business Ethics, and International Journal of AuditingProfessor Gold currently serves as editor at The Accounting Review (2020-2023) and Maandblad voor Accountancy en Bedrijfseconomie (since 2018). She is a member of the editorial board of Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory.

Prof. dr. Kathryn Kadous

Kathryn Kadous is the Schaefer Chaired Professor of Accounting and the Director and Associate Dean of the Ph.D. Program at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. She earned a PhD from the University of Illinois. Prior to that, she worked as an auditor and controller. Professor Kadous' research considers judgment and decision-making issues in auditing and accounting. Her current research is focused primarily on using psychology theory to improve auditor decision making and on identifying the antecedents of auditor skepticism. Professor Kadous' research has been published in The Accounting Review, Contemporary Accounting Research, Journal of Accounting Research, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, The Journal of Behavioral Finance, and Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory. 

Professor Kadous has served two terms as an editor for The Accounting Review and two terms as an editor for Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory. She serves on several editorial boards and has served on various research and publications related committees and tasks forces for the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the Auditing and Accounting, Behavior, and Organizations Sections of the AAA. She is currently Vice-President (Academic) of the Auditing Section of the American Accounting Association.

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