Date of Award
PhD in Accountancy
Department of Accountancy
Jay C. Thibodeau
Hailan Flora Zhou
Kimberly D. Westermann
The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting business operations throughout the world, including the working procedures of audit professionals. Yet, to date, research on COVID-19’s impact on auditing is limited. This is despite its potential long-term implications. Thus, my dissertation uses a mix of research methods to examine auditors’ response to, and regulators’ evaluation of auditors’ response to, COVID-19.
The first paper (co-authored) synthesizes research on audit firm culture (AFC) over the past decade, reviewing recent developments in research on AFC and its influence on audit quality and auditors’ work attitudes. Using a three-phase model based on prior research and professional guidance, our synthesis shows that AFC is most oriented toward quality if leadership emphasizes professionalism over commercialism, promotes ethical judgments, and facilitates learning. We contribute to both research and practice by presenting opportunities where future research can enhance our understanding of how AFC can be better managed by audit firms.
The second paper (co-authored) uses crisis management and organizational culture theories to understand COVID-19’s impact on key organizational mechanisms that embed and transmit AFC. Semi-structured interviews conducted with 18 U.S. audit engagement leaders reveal that COVID-19 is disrupting the collaborative culture of audit firms. Respondents describe paying greater attention to the key relational systems (e.g., communications) that exist within audit teams in order to minimize affective consequences (e.g., stress) and maintain high audit quality. They also express apprehension that virtual work practices do not result in an effective on-the-job learning culture, but acknowledge that such practices facilitate greater knowledge sharing across geographical locations.
The third paper (solo-authored) analyzes the PCAOB’s inspection reports for audits completed from 2018 to 2020 by the top eight largest accounting firms, examining inspection deficiencies and the associated implications for audit quality. I find that despite the disruption of COVID-19, there is some, albeit limited, evidence to suggest that audit firms are maintaining a high level of audit quality. Further, despite concerns that COVID-19 may impact audit risks for fraud and going concern, there are no deficiencies among these two audit areas in 2020. This study contributes to the emerging literature on COVID-19’s impact on audit quality.
Alberti, Christina T., "Audit Firm Culture: An Evolution of the Audit Profession in Response to External Forces". 2022. 3.