Auditor Switching - A Two-Stage Decision Process: An Empirical Study of Australian Companies
This dissertation is concerned with a primary and two secondary research issues. The primary issue pertains to the existence of a two-stage auditor switching decision process; that is the auditor change and the auditor selection stages. The two secondary issues concern the relative influence of variables within their respective decision stages. External auditors are engaged not only to comply with the Corporations Law requirement and Australian Stock Exchange membership conditions but also to reduce the degree of information risk assigned by financial statement users to financial statements prepared by auditee management. The decision to switch auditors may cause financial statement users to assign a higher degree of information risk to financial statements, i.e., the indirect costs of switching auditors. A substantial increase in these indirect costs may have occurred as the average rate that Australian publicly listed companies switch auditor has increased in recent years. However, prior research has provided inconsistent and inconclusive evidence with regard to the variables that influence auditees to switch auditors. To avoid mis-perceptions by financial statement users about the newly appointed auditors’ attestation of the financial information prepared by auditees, a greater understanding is needed of the auditor switching decision process to assist in mitigating these indirect costs of switching auditors. In prior research the underlying suggestion why auditees switch auditors is the development of a mis-match of audit services demanded to the services supplied by the incumbent auditor. To overcome this mis-match, auditees after deciding to change auditors then select a specific audit firm that offers suitable services and possesses suitable characteristics. A suggested reason for the inconsistent findings of prior research is that there are two decision stages (auditor change and auditor selection) in the auditor switching decision process and past studies have examined, intentionally or otherwise, different decision stages. From a two decision stage perspective, there are three additional explanations for the inconsistent findings of prior research.