Auditors’ Reactions to Inconsistencies between Financial and Nonfinancial Measures: The Interactive Effects of Fraud Risk Assessment and a Decision Prompt
Posted: 1 Oct 2013 Last revised: 19 Apr 2014
Date Written: April 18, 2014
Nonfinancial measures (NFMs), such as employee headcount and production space, are operational measures that are not included on the face of the financial statements but are often disclosed elsewhere in the annual report or 10-K (e.g., in Management’s Discussion and Analysis). Professional standards, auditing texts, and prior research suggest that external auditors can use NFMs to verify their clients’ reported financial information and, in turn, improve audit quality. In an initial experiment where auditors develop an expectation for a client’s sales balance, they generally fail to identify a seeded inconsistency between the client’s sales and related NFMs. In our second experiment, where we introduce an NFM prompt and manipulate fraud risk as high and low, auditors are more likely to react to the inconsistency (i.e., rely more on inconsistent NFMs/develop expectations that reflect the client’s current year decline in NFMs) when they are specifically prompted to consider the implications of NFMs and fraud risk is high (vs. low). Our results suggest the following: (1) a minority of auditors use NFMs as an information source for testing and do not increase their reliance on NFMs when the NFMs point to a fraud red flag; (2) the presence of high fraud risk alone is insufficient to increase auditor consideration of inconsistent NFMs; (3) auditors are able to react appropriately to an inconsistency if they are effectively prompted; and (4) the influence of a prompt on auditor reliance on NFMs and account balance expectations is stronger when fraud risk is assessed as high.
Keywords: analytical procedures, audit, fraud, nonfinancial measures
JEL Classification: M40, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation