The purpose of this paper is to examine whether audit firms use transparency reports (TRs) as a tool to standardize their brand image or whether the semantic and content analysis in these reports indicates a higher importance of country effects.
The sample includes 28 TRs published in English by the Big-4 audit firms from five EU countries (the UK, Ireland, Luxemburg, Hungary and Malta), as well as in the USA and Australia.
Using content analysis, this research finds that there is variation in the language used in TRs both across audit firms and jurisdictions. Most TRs from different countries of the same firm tend to be clustered, suggesting that audit firms use transparency reporting as a strategy to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In fact, EY and KPMG seem to have more standardized internal procedures and standardized information. Regarding country effects, the results indicate that TRs in the UK are longer and show more detailed information.
Overall, this research is innovative in the sense that it applies a new methodological approach to an emerging topic such as audit transparency reporting. It identifies emerging topics of voluntary disclosure, such as financial data of the firm, gender and ethnic origin of employees, community involvement or sanctions, among other topics of interest which might be explored in detail by future research to understand the construction of the profession.
This paper forms part of a special section “Textual-Analysis for Research in Professional Judgment and Decision Making, Audit and Assurance, Risk, Control, Governance, and Regulation”, guest edited by Louise Hayes.
Zorio-Grima, A. and Carmona, P. (2019), "Narratives of the Big-4 transparency reports: country effects or firm strategy?", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 34 No. 8, pp. 951-985. https://doi.org/10.1108/MAJ-09-2018-1994Download as .RIS
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