It’s a Matter of Style: The Role of Audit Firms and Audit Partners in Key Audit Matter Reporting

63 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020 Last revised: 20 Oct 2020

See all articles by Linette M. Rousseau

Linette M. Rousseau

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Accounting and Information Systems

Karla M. Zehms

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Accounting and Information Systems

Date Written: June 12, 2020

Abstract

We examine the relative importance of audit firm-level versus audit partner-level styles in key audit matter (KAM) outcomes. We define style as stable within-firm (partner) similarities and between-firm (partner) differences in KAM reporting over time and across clients and industries with respect to the volume of KAMs, their topical diversity, and the linguistic manner in which they communicate KAMs to users. Using a sample of UK KAMs, we find that firms and partners have unique styles for KAM reporting volume, topical diversity, and communication. Partner-level styles are the locus of KAM reporting decisions, adding 10 to 19 percent improvement in explanatory power versus firms’ two to five percent. Partner demographics do not meaningfully explain KAM reporting outcomes. We find that partners make unique KAM reporting judgments, countering concerns that audit firms’ standardization will yield boilerplate KAMs, but lending credence to concerns that KAM reporting judgments may lack comparability across partners.

Keywords: Audit partner identification, critical audit matters, expanded audit reporting, key audit matters, reporting style, textual analysis

JEL Classification: M41, M42

Suggested Citation

Rousseau, Linette and Zehms, Karla M., It’s a Matter of Style: The Role of Audit Firms and Audit Partners in Key Audit Matter Reporting (June 12, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3625651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3625651

Linette Rousseau

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Accounting and Information Systems ( email )

975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States

Karla M. Zehms (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Accounting and Information Systems ( email )

School of Business
975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-234-1052 (Phone)
608-265-5031 (Fax)

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