Specialists or Colleagues: Who Do Auditors Listen To?
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Despite the importance of specialists to the audit of significant accounting estimates, PCAOB inspection reports highlight instances where auditors discount advice received from a specialist. I examine when and why auditors discount a specialist’s advice. I find that auditors discount a specialist’s advice when it is evaluated at the same time as irrelevant advice from colleagues that consistently supports an alternate position. In doing so, auditors evaluate advice by applying a “consensus implies correctness” heuristic, instead of evaluating the advice’s relevance. I also find that when auditors first evaluate only irrelevant colleagues’ advice and then evaluate the specialist’s advice, they change their assessments to align with the specialist’s advice. Results suggest that separately evaluating the specialist’s advice and colleagues’ advice mitigates the effects of the consensus heuristic and discounting of the specialist’s advice. My results should be of interest to the PCAOB and public accounting firms as they revise audit guidance to increase reliance on specialist advice.
Fitzgerald, Brian Colin (2014). Specialists or Colleagues: Who Do Auditors Listen To?. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from