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.
Prof. Marshall Geiger PhD
CSX Chair in Management and Accounting Professor of Accounting University of Richmond
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