Effective corporate governance : experimental evidence on international auditors'judgments and the contribution of financial accounting education

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ID Serval
serval:BIB_FA39157DCC40
Type
Thèse: thèse de doctorat.
Collection
Publications
Titre
Effective corporate governance : experimental evidence on international auditors'judgments and the contribution of financial accounting education
Auteur(s)
Hoos F.
Directeur(s)
D'Arcy A.-C.
Institution
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
Adresse
HEC Lausanne Quartier UNIL-Dorigny Bâtiment Internef CH - 1015 Lausanne
Statut éditorial
Acceptée
Date de publication
2010
Langue
anglais
Nombre de pages
124
Notes
REROID:R005460324
Résumé
1 Summary
This dissertation deals with two major aspects of corporate governance that grew in importance during the last years: the internal audit function and financial accounting education. In three essays, I contribute to research on these topics which are embedded in the broader corporate governance literature.
The first two essays consist of experimental investigations of internal auditors' judgments. They deal with two research issues for which accounting research lacks evidence: The effectiveness of internal controls and the potentially conflicting role of the internal audit function between management and the audit committee. The findings of the first two essays contribute to the literature on internal auditors' judgment and the role of the internal audit function as a major cornerstone of corporate governance.
The third essay theoretically examines a broader issue but also relates to the overall research question of this dissertation: What contributes to effective corporate governance? This last essay takes the perspective that the root for quality corporate governance is appropriate financial accounting education. r develop a public interest approach to accounting education that contributes to the literature on adequate accounting education with respect to corporate governance and accounting harmonization.
The increasing importance of both the internal audit function and accounting education for corporate governance can be explained by the same recent fundamental changes that still affect accounting research and practice.
First, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX, 2002) and the 8th EU Directive (EU, 2006) have led to a bigger role for the internal audit function in corporate governance. Their implications regarding the implementation of audit committees and their oversight over internal controls are extensive. As a consequence, the internal audit function has become increasingly important for corporate governance and serves a new master (i.e. the audit committee) within the company in addition to management.
Second, the SOX (2002) and the 8th EU Directive introduced additional internal control mechanisms that are expected to contribute to the reliability of financial information. As a consequence, the internal audit function is expected to contribute to a greater extent to the reliability of financial statements. Therefore, effective internal control mechanisms that strengthen objective judgments and independence become important. This is especially true when external- auditors rely on the work of internal auditors in the context of the International Standard on Auditing (ISA) 610 and the equivalent US Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) 65 (see IFAC, 2009 and AICPA, 1990).
Third, the harmonization of international reporting standards is increasingly promoted by means of a principles-based approach. It is the leading approach since a study of the SEC (2003) that was required by the SOX (2002) in section 108(d) was in favor of this approach. As a result, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) commit themselves to the development of compatible accounting standards based on a principles-based approach. Moreover, since the Norwalk Agreement of 2002, the two standard setters have developed exposure drafts for a common conceptual framework that will be the basis for accounting harmonization. The new .framework will be in favor of fair value measurement and accounting for real-world economic phenomena. These changes in terms of standard setting lead to a trend towards more professional judgment in the accounting process. They affect internal and external auditors, accountants, and managers in general. As a consequence, a new competency set for preparers and users of financial statements is required. The basil for this new competency set is adequate accounting education (Schipper, 2003).
These three issues which affect corporate governance are the initial point of this dissertation and constitute its motivation. Two broad questions motivated a scientific examination in three essays:
1) What are major aspects to be examined regarding the new role of the internal audit function?
2) How should major changes in standard setting affect financial accounting education?
The first question became apparent due to two published literature reviews by Gramling et al. (2004) and Cohen, Krishnamoorthy & Wright (2004). These studies raise various questions for future research that are still relevant and which motivate the first two essays of my dissertation.
In the first essay, I focus on the role of the internal audit function as one cornerstone of corporate governance and its potentially conflicting role of serving both management and the audit committee (IIA, 2003). In an experimental study, I provide evidence on the challenges for internal auditors in their role as servant for two masters -the audit committee and management -and how this influences internal auditors' judgment (Gramling et al. 2004; Cohen, Krishnamoorthy & Wright, 2004). I ask if there is an expectation gap between what internal auditors should provide for corporate governance in theory compared to what internal auditors are able to provide in practice. In particular, I focus on the effect of serving two masters on the internal auditor's independence. I argue that independence is hardly achievable if the internal audit function serves two masters with conflicting priorities.
The second essay provides evidence on the effectiveness of accountability as an internal control mechanism. In general, internal control mechanisms based on accountability were enforced by the SOX (2002) and the 8th EU Directive. Subsequently, many companies introduced sub-certification processes that should contribute to an objective judgment process. Thus, these mechanisms are important to strengthen the reliability of financial statements. Based on a need for evidence on the effectiveness of internal control mechanisms (Brennan & Solomon, 2008; Gramling et al. 2004; Cohen, Krishnamoorthy & Wright, 2004; Solomon & Trotman, 2003), I designed an experiment to examine the joint effect of accountability and obedience pressure in an internal audit setting. I argue that obedience pressure potentially can lead to a negative influence on accountants' objectivity (e.g. DeZoort & Lord, 1997) whereas accountability can mitigate this negative effect.
My second main research question - How should major changes in standard setting affect financial accounting education? - is investigated in the third essay. It is motivated by the observation during my PhD that many conferences deal with the topic of accounting education but very little is published about what needs to be done. Moreover, the Endings in the first two essays of this thesis and their literature review suggest that financial accounting education can contribute significantly to quality corporate governance as argued elsewhere (Schipper, 2003; Boyce, 2004; Ghoshal, 2005).
In the third essay of this thesis, I therefore focus on approaches to financial accounting education that account for the changes in standard setting and also contribute to corporate governance and accounting harmonization. I argue that the competency set that is required in practice changes due to major changes in standard setting. As the major contribution of the third article, I develop a public interest approach for financial accounting education.
The major findings of this dissertation can be summarized as follows. The first essay provides evidence to an important research question raised by Gramling et al. (2004, p. 240): "If the audit committee and management have different visions for the corporate governance role of the IAF, which vision will dominate?" According to the results of the first essay, internal auditors do follow the priorities of either management or the audit committee based on the guidance provided by the Chief Audit executive. The study's results question whether the independence of the internal audit function is actually achievable. My findings contribute to research on internal auditors' judgment and the internal audit function's independence in the broader frame of corporate governance. The results are also important for practice because independence is a major justification for a positive contribution of the internal audit function to corporate governance.
The major findings of the second essay indicate that the duty to sign work results - a means of holding people accountable -mitigates the negative effect of obedience pressure on reliability. Hence, I found evidence that control .mechanisms relying on certifications may enhance the reliability of financial information. These findings contribute to the literature on the effectiveness of internal control mechanisms. They are also important in the light of sub-certification processes that resulted from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the 8th EU Directive.
The third essay contributes to the literature by developing a measurement framework that accounts for the consequences of major trends in standard setting. Moreovér, it shows how these trends affect the required .competency set of people dealing with accounting issues. Based on this work, my main contribution is the development of a public interest approach for the design of adequate financial accounting curricula.
2 Serving two masters: Experimental evidence on the independence of internal auditors
Abstract
Twenty nine internal auditors participated in a study that examines the independence of internal auditors in their potentially competing roles of serving two masters: the audit committee and management. Our main hypothesis suggests that internal auditors' independence is not achievable in an institutional setting in which internal auditors are accountable to two different parties with potentially differing priorities.
We test our hypothesis in an experiment in which the treatment consisted of two different instructions of the Chief audit executive; one stressing the priority of management (cost reduction) and one stressing the priority of the audit committee (effectiveness). Internal auditors had to evaluate internal controls and their inherent costs of different processes which varied in their degree of task complexity.
Our main results indicate that internal auditors' evaluation of the processes is significantly different when task complexity is high. Our findings suggest that internal auditors do follow the priorities of either management or the audit committee depending on the instructions of a superior internal auditor. The study's results question whether the independence of the internal audit function is actually achievable. With our findings, we contribute to research on internal auditors' judgment and the internal audit function's independence in the frame of corporate governance.
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