Strengthening the Financial Reporting System: Can Audit Committees Deliver?
66 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2009
Date Written: July 23, 2009
This paper reviews literature on audit committees in order to evaluate the extent to which committees are effective in terms of strengthening financial reporting. Specifically, we examine academic research on the topic of audit committee effectiveness published in a variety of accounting journals from 1994 until 2008. In particular, our review investigates from a meta-perspective the results reported in studies which examine the relationship between certain audit committee characteristics and measures of audit committee effectiveness. A large proportion of the studies report a positive association between effectiveness and the following characteristics: presence of the audit committee; audit committee members’ independence; and members’ competencies. However, the number of meetings and the size of the committee are not frequently associated positively with audit committee effectiveness. Our review also highlights important gaps in literature. Most studies are relational and explanatory; very few studies are exploratory, descriptive or transformative. Psychological and sociological perspectives of analysis are neglected. Knowledge is scant on audit committees in jurisdictions which do not follow the Anglo-Saxon model of corporate governance. Further, research on dynamics surrounding audit committee processes is scarce. As a result of these gaps in literature, our review aims to sensitize accounting researchers about the appropriateness of extending the boundaries of research on audit committees: methodologically, theoretically, and geographically speaking. Further, by summarizing research results on the effectiveness of various audit committee attributes, our review can be useful for regulators in terms of assessing the impact of extant regulation or in terms of implementing new regulation. Regulators and practitioners, however, should be careful in interpreting the results; 59 percent of the studies we reviewed focus on US public companies and most of the other studies rely on data gathered in countries characterized by the Anglo-Saxon model of corporate governance.
Keywords: Audit committee, Corporate governance, Effectiveness, Regulation, Review of literature
JEL Classification: G34, G38, M40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation