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FAR Practice Note - Auditor Reporting for Going-Concern Uncertainty: Research Findings and implications for practitioners Prof. Marshall Geiger PhD Prof. dr. Anna Gold Prof. dr. Philip Wallage Details
 

The auditor’s decision regarding a going concern opinion (GCO) is among their most important judgments, as GCOs impact the client company, markets, financial statement users, and auditors themselves. Such a sensitive and complex judgement call requires expertise and experience. In the academic literature, GCO decisions are often seen as related to audit quality, and they are among the few observable outcomes of the audit that vary across engagements. In the last decades, academic researchers have spent considerable effort examining GCO decisions. We believe that audit practitioners can benefit from improved awareness of the insights that research has generated. In our complete report (Geiger, Gold, and Wallage, 2019), we review and synthesize 149 academic studies authored since 2013, the end of the previous synthesis by Carson et al (2013). In this practitioner note, we make a selection of what we deem the most interesting insights from our review, and discuss their implications for practice. We then report on our focus group engagement with audit practitioners where we obtained their perceptions regarding some the academic findings, the issues faced in making GCO decisions, as well as areas where additional research would be helpful.

Authors

Prof. Marshall Geiger PhD

Marshall A. Geiger, Ph.D., CPA, is the CSX Chair in Management and Accounting and Professor of Accounting at the Robins School of Business, University of Richmond. Marshall has also been an honorary Professor of the Faculty of Business and Law at Deakin University in Australia.  He graduated from Penn State University in 1988 with his Ph.D. in accounting and has published over 75 articles, a research monograph, and a Chapter in a research reference book on numerous topics in accounting, auditing and accounting education. Marshall has been recognized as the most prolific accounting scholar among all accounting Ph.Ds graduating worldwide in 1988. He is a past Editor at Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, and former Associate Editor at Accounting Horizons and holds appointments on five editorial review boards of scholarly journals in the US and internationally. Marshall has delivered over 60 educational and research seminars and programs on a broad range of topics in accounting and auditing to a wide range of participants, including audit practitioners, entrepreneurs, academics, lawyers and standard-setters.


Prof. dr. Anna Gold

Anna Gold obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam in 2004, worked as an assistant professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University for six years and is currently professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where she teaches Auditing at the BSc and MSc level, as well as PhD courses in Auditing and Experimental Methods. Anna’s 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, on judgments and decisions of auditors and financial statement users. Her recent work focuses on how auditors and audit firms handle errors and whether varying the error management climate affects auditors’ error reporting willingness and audit firm learning. Anna’s work and her publications have appeared in a number of prestigious journals such as The Accounting Review, Accounting Horizons, Journal of Business Ethics, and International Journal of Auditing.

Prof. dr. Philip Wallage

Professor of Auditing at VU University Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam

A Synthesis of Research on Auditor Reporting on Going-Concern Uncertainty: An Update and Extension Prof. Marshall Geiger PhD Prof. dr. Anna Gold Prof. dr. Philip Wallage Details
 

Reporting on going-concern-related uncertainties remains one of the most challenging issues faced by external auditors. Even though professional standards do not hold external auditors responsible for predicting future events, such as the subsequent viability of audit clients, if an auditor refrains from issuing a going concern modified audit opinion (hereafter GCO) and the client company subsequently fails (referred to in the academic literature as a “type II” reporting error), the costs to the auditor in terms of increased litigation costs and loss of reputation are often substantial (Carcello and Palmrose 1994). At the same time, companies usually do not welcome a GCO from their auditor. For example, if an auditor renders a GCO to a financially distressed client, there is often concern that the GCO itself may precipitate, or at least accelerate, the financial distress of the already troubled company resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Further, if an auditor renders a GCO to a client that subsequently survives (referred to in the academic literature as a “type I” reporting error), these clients are significantly more likely to switch to another auditor for their next audit (Geiger, Raghunandan and Rama 1998). It is not surprising, then, that audit practitioners, regulators and standard-setters around the world continue to grapple with this complex issue. As requested by the Foundation for Audit Research (FAR), the primary purpose of this research synthesis is to review and discuss the recent academic literature pertinent to the auditor’s decision to issue, or not issue, a GCO. Our review begins with research available after the going-concern research synthesis provided in Carson, Fargher, Geiger, Lennox, Raghunandan and Willekens (2013). We attempt to minimize the gap and the overlap in the research discussed in Carson et al. (2013) and our work. Further, in an attempt to be as comprehensive as possible, we do not limit our coverage to only published research, but also include well-developed working papers in the public domain, particularly if we determine they add significant contribution to the literature.

Authors

Prof. Marshall Geiger PhD

Marshall A. Geiger, Ph.D., CPA, is the CSX Chair in Management and Accounting and Professor of Accounting at the Robins School of Business, University of Richmond. Marshall has also been an honorary Professor of the Faculty of Business and Law at Deakin University in Australia.  He graduated from Penn State University in 1988 with his Ph.D. in accounting and has published over 75 articles, a research monograph, and a Chapter in a research reference book on numerous topics in accounting, auditing and accounting education. Marshall has been recognized as the most prolific accounting scholar among all accounting Ph.Ds graduating worldwide in 1988. He is a past Editor at Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, and former Associate Editor at Accounting Horizons and holds appointments on five editorial review boards of scholarly journals in the US and internationally. Marshall has delivered over 60 educational and research seminars and programs on a broad range of topics in accounting and auditing to a wide range of participants, including audit practitioners, entrepreneurs, academics, lawyers and standard-setters.


Prof. dr. Anna Gold

Anna Gold obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam in 2004, worked as an assistant professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University for six years and is currently professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where she teaches Auditing at the BSc and MSc level, as well as PhD courses in Auditing and Experimental Methods. Anna’s 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, on judgments and decisions of auditors and financial statement users. Her recent work focuses on how auditors and audit firms handle errors and whether varying the error management climate affects auditors’ error reporting willingness and audit firm learning. Anna’s work and her publications have appeared in a number of prestigious journals such as The Accounting Review, Accounting Horizons, Journal of Business Ethics, and International Journal of Auditing.

Prof. dr. Philip Wallage

Professor of Auditing at VU University Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam