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Mandatory audit firm rotation: a critical composition of practitioner views from an emerging economy

Michael Harber (Department of Accounting, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)
Warren Maroun (School of Accountancy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 8 July 2020

Issue publication date: 23 September 2020

873

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to address an acknowledged gap in the literature for the analysis of experienced practitioner views on the effects and implications of mandatory audit firm rotation (MAFR).

Design/methodology/approach

Using an exploratory and sequential design, data was collected from South African regulatory policy documents, organisational comment letters and semi-structured interviews of practitioners. These findings informed a field survey, administered to auditors, investors, chief financial officers (CFOs) and audit committee members of Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies.

Findings

Practitioners expressed considerable pushback against the potential efficacy of MAFR to improve audit quality due to various “switching costs”, notably the loss of client-specific knowledge and expertise upon rotation. In addition, the cost and disruption to both the client and audit firm are considered significant and unnecessary, compared to audit partner rotation. The audit industry may suffer reduced profitability and increased strain on partners, leading to a decline in the appeal of the profession as a career of choice. This is likely to have negative implications for audit industry diversity objectives. Furthermore, the industry may become more supplier-concentrated amongst the Big 4 firms.

Practical implications

The findings have policy implications for regulators deciding whether to adopt the regulation, as well as guiding the design of policies and procedures to mitigate the negative effects of adoption.

Originality/value

The participants are experienced with diverse roles concerning the use, preparation and audit of financial statements of large exchange-listed multinational companies, as well as engagement in the auditor appointment process. The extant literature presents mixed results on the link between MAFR and audit quality, with most studies relying on archival and experimental designs. These have a limited ability to identify and critique the potential’s witching costs and unintended consequences of the regulation. Experienced participants responsible for decision-making within the audit, audit oversight and auditor appointment process, are best suited to provide perspective on these effects, contrasted against the audit regulator’s position.

Keywords

Citation

Harber, M. and Maroun, W. (2020), "Mandatory audit firm rotation: a critical composition of practitioner views from an emerging economy", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 35 No. 7, pp. 861-896. https://doi.org/10.1108/MAJ-09-2019-2405

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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