This study aims to examine the relationship between auditor tenure and conservatism for firms in Greece. Greece not only has a high incidence of earnings management but is also required under the new European Commission (EC) regulation to comply with mandatory auditor rotation. Therefore, Greece is an ideal setting in which to study the association between auditor tenure and accounting conservatism.
Similar to Jenkins and Velury (2008), this paper uses Basu’s (1997) asymmetrical timeliness of earnings as a measure of conservatism. Following Li (2010), the regression is re-estimated for subsamples based on client importance as measured by the ranking of client sales among all clients audited by the firm.
In contrast to Li (2010), the results of this study, which used a sample of firms in Greece, indicate that conservatism decreases as the auditor–client relationship lengthens. Client importance does not appear to affect the relationship between auditor tenure and conservatism, as measured by asymmetric timeliness of earnings. However, when using the accrual–cash flow measure of conservatism (Ball and Shivakumar, 2005), it is found that auditor tenure is positively (negatively) associated with conservatism for less (more) important clients. The results suggest that longer auditor tenure may have a negative impact on audit quality in certain countries where accounting quality has been found to be poor. Therefore, the new EC regulation requiring mandatory auditor rotation may in fact improve audit quality for firms in Greece.
This study’s sample consists of firms on the Athens Stock Exchange for the period of 1998-2011. This sample was purposely selected because of the unique conditions of rampant earnings management and low incentive in Greece for the auditors to exert effort to detect such practices. Moreover, Greece is subject to the new EC regulations requiring mandatory auditor rotation beginning in 2014. Future studies could examine this issue in alternate settings and over different time periods. Also, other cross-sectional variations among firms which affect the association between auditor–client tenure and audit quality may exist.
The findings are important to regulators such as the EC and indicate that Greece may be an appropriate setting in which to require mandatory auditor rotation. These results are also useful to auditors who wish to improve the audit quality and the public’s perception of their work.
Auditor tenure has been the subject of considerable debate, and regulators contend that long auditor tenure reduces audit quality. There may be a valid argument in favor of mandatory auditor rotation in countries particularly susceptible to low accounting quality due to issues such as rampant earnings management. Greece appears to be one such example, and this study provides support in favor of that argument by demonstrating that longer auditor tenure may lead to lower accounting quality in terms of conservatism. Therefore, the recent EC regulation may result in improved audit quality for firms in Greece.
Rickett, L., Maggina, A. and Alam, P. (2016), "Auditor tenure and accounting conservatism: evidence from Greece", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 31 No. 6/7, pp. 538-565. https://doi.org/10.1108/MAJ-10-2014-1103Download as .RIS
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