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Who gets all the PIE? Regulation of the statutory audit for private UK companies

Iain Clacher (Accounting and Finance Division, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)
Alan Duboisée de Ricquebourg (Accounting and Finance Division, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)
Amy May (Accounting and Finance Division, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 8 August 2019

Issue publication date: 8 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

While recently introduced EU regulation on the statutory audit of public interest entities (PIEs) aims to improve audit competition and quality, its success and impact depends on the definition of a PIE applied across the various EU Member States. In the UK, even though little is known about their auditing choices, these changes will not apply to most private companies despite their importance to the wider economy. The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis of the private company audit market and examine the lobbying behaviour of the accounting profession around the definition of a PIE in the UK.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a large panel of independent private company audits in the UK and a textual analysis of submitted comment letters to a government consultation on the new regulation, this paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the audit market for private companies by measuring supplier concentration using four different measures of market share, and of the lobbying behaviour of the accounting profession.

Findings

There are two main findings. First, the private company audit market is characterised by low auditor switching rates along with a tight oligopoly of the largest independent private company audits maintained by the Big Four audit firms. Second, the lobbying behaviour of accounting and audit firms sought, and succeeded, to limit the scope of the definition of a PIE in the UK, consistent with the theoretical predictions of monopoly capitalism and the theory of professions.

Originality/value

The paper shows that the definition and scope of a PIE needs revisiting both within the UK and across all EU Member States, with a view to including more of these economically important private companies and highlights the policy challenge of increasing competition and choice in a concentrated audit market.

Keywords

Citation

Clacher, I., Duboisée de Ricquebourg, A. and May, A. (2019), "Who gets all the PIE? Regulation of the statutory audit for private UK companies", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1297-1324. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-12-2015-2341

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited