Auditor Skepticism and Client Ill Will

Curtis, Mary
Eutsler, Jared
Holderness, Kip
Robertson, Jesse
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Professional skepticism is considered an essential component of audit quality. Consequently, research has focused on ways to increase skepticism by identifying factors that either limit or encourage its practice. However, research has yet to explore potential negative consequences of professional skepticism. We conduct two experiments to investigate if high levels of skepticism create ill will in audit clients, and how ill will affects the auditor-client relationship and audit quality. In the first experiment, we find that high skepticism creates ill will in the client, which increases the likelihood the client recommends switching auditors and decreases the amount of evidence provided to the auditor. We find that auditors can ingratiate themselves with the client as an intervention to decrease the development of ill will and mitigate its adverse effects. In our second experiment, we examine if client pressure to persuade the auditor of their accounting position mitigates the relationship between high skepticism and ill will. We find an interaction such that if the evidence does not support the accounting treatment the client recommends, a high level of auditor skepticism does not cause clients to experience as much ill will toward the auditor. We contribute to the literature by investigating a new empirical construct, client ill will, and developing a more nuanced perspective of the interactions between auditors and their clients.
Skepticism, client ill will, audit quality, auditor-client relationship
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