Theoretical Examinations Of Limitations Of Assurance Provided Accounting Essay

The beginning of the twenty-first century has witnessed the meltdown of the elephantine company – WorldCom, together with its hearer – Arthur Andersen, projecting limelight on the re-examination of the dependability and confidence delivered by fiscal audit. ( Scharff, 2005 ) On July 21, 2002, the telecommunications company WorldCom, with exaggerations of $ 7 billion in its revenue enhancement income and written-down of $ 82 billion of assets, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Shareholders and other stakeholders of the company suffered from significant losingss after the autumn of the giant, which was thought to be “ excessively large to fall ” . Peoples were left inquiring what caused the prostration and who was accountable for this. Regulators, standard compositors, and audit bureaus were oppugning why traditional fiscal audit failed to observe and unveil the accounting frauds and supplying confidence for stockholders, possible investors and other stakeholders as expected. As a important and indispensable portion of fiscal control and one of the most cardinal devices to supply confidence, fiscal audit is called into inquiry. Peoples were haunted with a inquiry in head and started wondering: ‘Why does fiscal audit fail to supply the confidence as expected? ‘

Fiscal audit ( or external audit ) refers to ‘corporate fiscal audits conducted on the fiscal statements of an administration by an outside party – a registered public accounting house or a qualified single hearer. ‘ ( Mennicken & A ; Power, 2012 ) In visible radiation of the urgency and importance to happen out why fiscal audit failed to supply confidence, this essay will do a critical analysis of the restrictions of fiscal audit and the different impressions of confidence by different groups of people.

The essay is constructed into two parts. The first portion will analyze the ground why confidence provided by fiscal audit is limited from theoretical positions in footings of outlooks spread and the audit hazard theoretical account. Then a deeper analysis will be made through treatments about different thoughts of what confidence should be delivered by fiscal audit from the positions of audit criterions, hearers and the populace. In the 2nd portion, theoretical restrictions of fiscal audit examined in the first portion will be through empirical observation analysed in the instance of WorldCom and its hearer Arthur Andersen. Drivers of the audit failure at WorldCom will besides be examined. At last, the essay will reason that it can non be denied that audit failures are to a big extent caused by malpractice of fiscal hearers. However, the external hearers are non the lone group of people to be blamed. Due to the restrictions of fiscal audit and assorted impressions of confidence, fiscal audit can non be adapted to all the demands for confidence. Accountability and significance of other beginnings of confidence, such as internal audit and direction, should non be ignored. Fiscal auditing should be combined with other administration mechanisms to supply confidence. ( Mennicken & A ; Power, 2012 )

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Theoretical Examinations of Restrictions of Assurance Provided by Financial Audit

2.1 The Expectations Gap

Fiscal hearers are expected to supply certain type and sum of confidence to run into the demands of both auditing criterions and different groups of fiscal statement users. However, the different readings and outlooks of the type and sum of confidence that audit should supply created a spread between the audit service suppliers and audit service purchasers. ( Mahadevaswamy, 2008 )

The term ‘audit outlooks gap ‘ was foremost introduced by Liggio as the difference in readings of expected public presentation between independent hearer and fiscal statement users. ( Saeidi, 2012 ) The definition given by Liggio is really simple and general. More specific and elaborate definitions and impressions of audit outlooks spread sprouted after Liggio. Harmonizing to Gray and Manson ( 2011 ) , the outlooks spread is ‘used to depict differences between the outlooks of those who rely upon audit studies refering what hearers do and what they are perceived to make ‘ . Humphrey et Al. ( 2011 ) defined the outlooks gap as ‘ [ aˆ¦ ] a representation of the feeling that hearers are executing in a mode at discrepancy with the beliefs and desires of those for whose benefit the audit is being carried out. ‘ In Humphrey ‘s definition, fiscal statement users and audit study users are non the lone groups of people who benefit from scrutinizing. Other groups of people, for case, taxpayers who are really improbable to do determinations based on fiscal statements and audit studies, may necessitate audit confidence every bit good, particularly in the instance of public sectors. So Humphrey covered a wider scope of demanders for audit confidence than Liggio and Gray and Manson did. Later, Porter divided audit outlooks gap into two sub-categories, viz. the sensible spread, and public presentation spread. ( Porter, 2012 ) Reasonable spread refers to the spread between ‘what the populace expects the hearers to accomplish and what they can moderately be expected to carry through ‘ . ( Porter, 2012 ) The sensible spread normally arises from the inordinate and unrealistic outlooks from the populace, who require more confidence than audit can supply in practical footings. ( Gray & A ; Manson, 2011 ) The public presentation spread, defined as the spread between ‘what the populace can reasonably expect hearers to carry through and what they are perceived to accomplish ‘ , is caused by the failure of hearers to set about scrutinizing patterns to a nice and equal extent. ( Gray & A ; Manson, 2011 )

Harmonizing to Power ( 1997 ) , the rise of the outlooks spread is due to the struggle positions of the populace and the hearer on what audit should present. The public respect the audit map as ‘the sensing of fraud ‘ ; while the hearers claim that they are supposed to present professional sentiment or a ‘true and just position ‘ on fiscal statements. ( Power, 1997 ) This struggle stems from the obscureness of what audit should present, and what sort and sum of confidence audit should supply. There is no consistent and expressed construct of what ‘good ‘ audit is. ( Power, 1997 ) To be more specifically, we will look at the causes of the two constituents of outlooks spread, viz. sensible spread and public presentation spread, severally.

Harmonizing to Sikka et Al. ( 1998 ) , the sensible spread is resulted in the clang between supply and demand of scrutinizing services. Audit service suppliers are seeking to understate duties imposed on them, while in contrast, audit service purchasers require hearers to present a high quality of pattern to maximize the sum of confidence that such pattern can supply. ( Sikka, 1998 ) Auditors are accountable for supplying a minimal regulated degree of ‘reasonable confidence ‘ required by the criterions. However, this sort of confidence required by the auditing criterions is far from what is expected by the users. A study carried out by Humphrey et Al. ( 1993 ) suggests that the audit outlooks gap exist in varies facets of the map of audit and public presentation of hearers. Different positions on the duty and map of audit patterns were demonstrated in the study, including hearers ‘ function in fraud sensing, hearers ‘ duties to 3rd parties, balance sheet ratings, independency of audit and so forth. ( Humphrey et al. , 1993 ) However, the study implies that the outlooks spread is neither due to the prejudice of audit services ‘ purchasers towards hearers, nor caused by populace ‘s unrealistic outlooks of the result of audit services. ( Humphrey et al. , 1993 ) It is different readings of the nature of audit maps and varies outlooks of the result of audit patterns that lead to the sensible spread. When the fraud of a house is uncovered, hearers are ever the first group of people to be blamed by the populace. ( McHugh & A ; Rowe, 1996 ) However, in fact, external hearers are non the lone group of people responsible for fraud sensing and confidence proviso, and they can non work entirely to accomplish it. Besides external hearers, internal hearers, board of managers, CEO and other groups of people are besides accountable for supplying confidence to the populace. ( Power, 2005 ) So the sensible spread is to a big extent due to public ‘s inordinate demand out of hearers, and carelessness of the responsibility of other confidence suppliers.

Another component of the outlooks gap – the public presentation spread, can be subdivided into deficient criterions, which refers to ‘a spread between what can moderately be expected of hearers and hearers ‘ bing responsibilities as defined by jurisprudence and professional announcements ‘ , and lacking public presentation, which is defined as ‘a spread between the expected criterion of public presentation of hearers ‘ bing responsibilities and hearers ‘ perceived public presentation, as expected and perceived by the populace ‘ . ( Gray & A ; Manson, 2011 ) Portor et Al. ( 2012 ) argue that what leads to deficient criterion is the extra cost arose by public presentation of excess duty that exceeds the benefits to society. The lacking criterion in this instance seems to be economically rational for standard compositors and hearers. The lacking public presentation is caused by deficiency of competency and deficiency of practician independency. ( Gray & A ; Manson, 2011 ) Again, trade off is involved in the cost-assurance pick of whether to put more in competency and independency of hearers at a higher cost or non. ( Power, 1997 )

From the treatments above, we can see that what is expected by the fiscal statement users and the populace, what is required by the auditing criterions, and what is delivered in scrutinizing patterns are decoupled. Expectations can be narrowed down through enterprises, but evidently can ne’er be eliminated. ( Ojo, 2007 ) It is non practical to accommodate different impressions and thoughts of fiscal audit confidence among assorted groups of people.

2.2 The Audit Risk Model

Audit hazard theoretical account is a primary tool for hearers to do audit determinations on choice method, the sum and type of samples to observe, and the degree of hazard tolerance in audit patterns. Audit hazard consists of built-in hazard, control hazard and sensing hazard. ( Arens, 2000 ) We will take a closer expression at the three elements one by one.

Built-in hazard is the hearer ‘s opinion of the likeliness of stuff misstatements, disregarding internal control. ( Arens, 2000 ) Inherent hazard can be used as a usher for hearers to foretell where misstatements are more likely to happen in the fiscal statements. In this manner, hearers can make up one’s mind where more groundss should be collected. ( Law, 2008 ) Control hazard is the hearer ‘s appraisal of how likely internal control systems fail to observe the misstatements in fiscal statements that exceeds an acceptable sum. ( Arens, 2000 )

The combination of built-in hazard and control hazard can stand for the tolerance of misstatement after taking internal control into consideration. ( Arens, 2000 ) In most instances, built-in hazard is determined by the nature of the industry and the sort of work and minutess a company is engaged in. Control hazard depends mostly on the internal control within the administration. Due to these characteristics of built-in hazard and control hazards, they can merely be evaluated or estimated, but can ne’er be controlled by external hearers.

Detection hazard is the lone component that can be controlled by fiscal hearers. It is composed of trying hazard, the hazard caused by non proving the full population, and non-sampling hazard, the hazard of non bring outing the exclusions in the sample. ( Arens, 2000 )

Detection hazard can be controlled in two ways: seting sample size and bettering trying method. ( Arens, 2000 ) A higher grade of confidence can be achieved by a bigger size of trying. A sample size of the full population means zero sampling hazard. However, this is impossible to accomplish since it is technically hard to roll up all the information and irrational to pass excessively much clip and money on look intoing all the stuffs. The effectivity of trying method depends mostly on hearers ‘ professional opinion. But no affair how professional and experienced the hearer is, non trying method is perfect. Similarly, Power ( 1997 ) argues that in order to obtain sufficient audit grounds to enable hearers to give an sentiment on the fiscal statements, hearers have to tradeoff between operational range ( i.e. figure of minutess tested ) and operational deepness ( i.e. the method of trial performed on selected minutess ) . ( Power, 1997 ) Sing that the sum of resource allocated to scrutinizing activities is limited, a bigger sample size agencies to be less detailed in proving procedure and frailty versa. ( Power, 1997 )

In order to accomplish a higher degree of confidence, the hearer should do attempts to diminish sensing hazard to a last degree. Harmonizing to Arens ( 2000 ) , there are two ways to accomplish this. One attack is to enroll more experient professions to prosecute in the audit procedure. Another solution is to do more attempt and reexamine more carefully than usual. Both of the attacks are expensive and sometimes impractical to implement. When the addition in cost outweighs the benefit, it is irrational for the hearer and auditee likewise to accomplish a higher degree of confidence. Taking cost-efficient factors into consideration, a really high degree of confidence is expensive, worthless and sometimes impossible to accomplish.

2.3 Assurance Provided in Compliance with the Auditing Standards

2.3.1 The Auditing Standards ‘ Position

‘International Standards on Auditing ( ISA ) requires the hearer to obtain sensible confidence about whether the fiscal statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or mistake. ‘ ( IAASB, 2012 )

The auditing criterions indicate that fiscal hearers are expected to supply an authorized professional sentiment in order to do confidence of the quality and fidelity of fiscal statements. ( IAASB, 2012 ) Reasonable sum and type of confidence should be provided by hearers to guarantee that fiscal statements can be used as a echt and proper representation of the entity ‘s fiscal place, public presentation and sustainability by different groups of people for decision-making. ( McHugh & A ; Rowe, 1996 )

Although sensible confidence is required by the criterion, no expressed accounts of what sum and type of confidence is defined as sensible confidence are provided. The obscure look and deficiency of farther account lead to divergence in the readings of ‘reasonable confidence ‘ , which posed the job of outlooks gap between the compliance-based type and sum of confidence, the confidence provided in audit pattern, and confidence required by the public and different groups of fiscal statement users.

The sum of confidence required by scrutinizing criterions is simply on a minimal regulative degree. ( Gray & A ; Manson, 2011 ) This degree of confidence is set by the regulators with both a cost-efficient consideration and a concern for self-defense from judicial proceeding. A really high degree of criterion will take to inordinate sum of resources being allocated to scrutinizing activates, which is neither rational nor cost-efficient. If the hearers are required by the criterions to supply more confidence and command the audit hazard to a minimal degree, they have to roll up a significant sum of groundss and do more enterprises in the auditing procedure, which will increase the costs. However, the attempt may non better the result consequently. If the addition in costs outweighs the increased degree of confidence, audit service purchasers will be loath to pay for such expensive auditing services. As a minimal regulative degree of demand, degree of confidence required by the scrutinizing criterion is excessively expensive to be high. In add-on, if the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board ( IAASB ) gives an explicit and elaborate account or standards for ‘reasonable criterion ‘ , it may lose the right for concluding account and be exposed to judicial proceeding hazards. So the obscure look of ‘reasonable confidence ‘ somehow protects the scrutinizing standard compositors from judicial proceeding, seeing that they reserve the concluding account and have a greater flexibleness in specifying the criterions ‘ position of what type and sum of confidence is sensible.

2.3.2 Reasonable Assurance versus Absolute Assurance

Harmonizing to IAASB ( 2012 ) , ‘Reasonable confidence is a high degree of confidence. It is obtained when the hearer has obtained sufficient appropriate audit grounds to cut down audit hazard to an tolerably low degree. ‘

First of wholly, it is indicated in the scrutinizing criterion that the proviso of sensible confidence is based on sufficient appropriate audit grounds. However, the criterion does non state us what type and sum of audit grounds is sufficient and appropriate. The trying size and method, and the tradeoff between operational range and deepness are to a big extent dependant on the hearers ‘ professional opinion and necessitate a high degree of capableness to accomplish. ( Power, 1997 ) Second, cost-effectiveness and other factors should besides be taken into consideration when roll uping audit groundss. Absolute confidence can ne’er be achieved due to these restrictions. In add-on, IAASB ‘s statement of ‘acceptably low degree ‘ is equivocal every bit good. It is the hearer who decides whether the audit hazard is of an ‘acceptably low degree ‘ , non the populace and fiscal statement users. Again, it is mostly based on the hearers ‘ professional opinion. Besides, as discussed earlier, the degree of audit hazard tolerance is different between different groups of people.

In add-on, the criterion besides stated that an absolute degree of confidence is unrealistic and non expected to be achieved. ‘However, sensible confidence is non an absolute degree of confidence, because there are built-in restrictions of an audit which consequence in most of the audit grounds on which the hearer draws decisions and bases the hearer ‘s sentiment being persuasive instead than conclusive. ‘ ( IAASB, 2012 )

The criterion demonstrated that hearers can non supply an absolute warrant and confidence of the cogency of fiscal statements due to built-in restrictions. ( Arens, 2000 ) Auditors ‘ sentiment and opinion on the fiscal statements are based on the audit groundss sampled. The sensing hazard of non covering the misstatements is inevitable. ( Arens, 2000 ) Particularly in the instance of accounting fraud, misstatements are deliberately concealed, doing it even more hard to be detected by hearers by normal audit procedures. ( Arens, 2000 ) Furthermore, non all the audit hazards are under the control of hearers. Hearers are non accountable for built-in and control hazards. The lone governable component of audit hazard for hearers is sensing hazard. Therefore, hearers can non supply absolute confidence due to the unmanageable hazards built-in in the auditee itself. At last, a really high degree of confidence is excessively expensive and sometimes economically irrational to accomplish, when the benefit fiscal statement users get exceeds the cost.

2.4 Other Impressions of Assurance

In the Oxford English Dictionary ( OED ) , there are three relevant definitions of confidence in the context of fiscal auditing.

I.1.a. ‘A promise or battle doing a thing certain ; a formal battle, pledge, or warrant. ‘

I.3. ‘A positive declaration intended to give assurance. ‘

II.8.a. ‘Subjective certainty ; being certain as to a fact, cocksureness ; assurance, trust. ‘ ( Simpson & A ; Weiner, 1989 )

The auditing criterions ‘ position of sensible confidence fits the definitions of I.1.a and I.3. The aim of scrutinizing is to give assurance to fiscal statement users in footings of the genuineness of fiscal statements. The scrutinizing procedure is a certain sort of ‘formal battle ‘ since hearers are supposed to look into whether the fiscal statements are true and just. To be more precise, hearers are supposed to give sentiments of whether the minutess in the fiscal statement are based on facts and whether the readyings of fiscal statements comply with accounting criterions. ( Gray & A ; Manson, 2011 ) However, different from the definition in OED, audit confidence is non ever given through a positive declaration. When hearers detect fraud or impropriety in fiscal statements, sensible confidence and assurance can besides be given through a negative position ( i.e. qualified sentiment, disclaimer sentiment or inauspicious sentiment ) .

In comparing, the populace and fiscal statement users ‘ position about sensible confidence tends to suit the definition II.8.a. Their assurance of fiscal statements is built on the trust in hearers, who act as the agents to prove and verify the fidelity of fiscal statements on behalf of the populace. However, the users ‘ trust and outlooks can be unsighted and unrealistic. The hearer of a company is normally chosen by a little group of people, in most instances, the board of managers. ( Arens, 2000 ) Shareholders and other groups of fiscal statement users do non cognize much about whether the hearers are capable and experient. So whether the hearer is independent, professional and trusty can be questionable. Apart from that, the populace ‘s outlook of hearers to be ‘certain as to a fact ‘ ( Simpson & A ; Weiner, 1989 ) , or in other words, to observe fraud is more than to supply warrant on fiscal statements. So the populace have a different position on what confidence should be provided by audit.

By analyzing the different definitions of ‘assurance ‘ in the OED, we can see that there are different readings of what confidence should be delivered by hearers and scrutinizing patterns between the audit criterions and the populace. The auditing criterions require hearers to supply confidence by giving true and just positions on the faithful representation of fiscal statements. While the populace ‘s demand for confidence is non confined to the faithful representation of fiscal statements. The different Scopess of confidence defined by the populace, hearers and standard compositors lead to the spread of outlooks.

An Empirical Analysiss of Restrictions of Assurance Provided by Financial Audit – the Failure of WorldCom

The autumn of WorldCom and its hearer Arthur Andersen destabilised the fiscal markets and undermined the trust and assurance in fiscal coverage in the United States. ( Coffee, 2006 ) As one of the largest and most iconic audit failures in history, it calls for surveies on the grounds and drivers of the autumn. ( Coffee, 2006 ) In the undermentioned portion of the essay, we will analyze the theoretical accounts discussed earlier in the instance of audit failure at WorldCom and Arthur Andersen. Other empirical drivers of audit failure will besides be discussed.

3.1 A Brief Overview of the Financial Audit Failure in WorldCom

WorldCom, one of the largest telecommunications company in the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 21, 2002. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Its independent hearer, one of the Big 5 audit houses, Arthur Andersen, collapsed following the autumn of WorldCom.

From top to bottom, WorldCom was immersed in an irrational fad for gross and Expense-to-Revenue Ratio, which were two cardinal indexs of a company ‘s market value. Everyone in the administration tried or forced to accomplish the ambitious and unrealistic end of being ‘the No.1 stock on Wall Street ‘ by any sort of agencies. WorldCom intentionally overstated its income and miscalculated the expense-to-revenue ratio chiefly by two agencies: improper accrual releases and expense capitalization. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 )

Arthur Andersen, the independent external hearer of WorldCom from 1990 to 2002, failed to uncover the accounting fraud. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) The causes of the audit failure of Arthur Andersen were rather complex. There was a big spread of information dissymmetry between WorldCom and Arthur Andersen. On one manus, WorldCom restricted Arthur Andersen ‘s entree to a big figure of important groundss, and provided false information to Arthur Andersen. On the other manus, Arthur Andersen committed malpractice at WorldCom. ( Coffee, 2006 ) It did non set its scrutinizing method and engagement decently through clip and in different state of affairss, and had ne’er reported the limitations of entree to critical information and communications with the auditee. ( Coffee, 2006 )

WorldCom later overstated its income by more than $ 7 billion and wrote down more than 75 % of its assets. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Finally, the game was brought to an terminal by the whistle blowing of WorldCom ‘s internal hearer, shocked the whole capital market and astonished the whole society.

3.2 Expectations Gap in the Case of WorldCom

In the instance of WorldCom, the major provider of confidence is the independent external hearer, Arthur Andersen. The chief users of the fiscal statements and confidence demanders are composed of WorldCom ‘s stockholders, creditors, board of managers, concern spouses, employees, clients, bing and possible investors and so forth. In conformity with the impression and definition of outlooks spreads discussed before in this essay, the outlooks spread in this instance is the differences of outlooks between WorldCom ‘s fiscal statement users ‘ and confidence demanders ‘ outlooks of confidence that Arthur Andersen should present and assurance really delivered by Arthur Andersen.

As one of the major telecommunications service supplier with a great figure of clients including the Department of Defence and many other authorities sectors, WorldCom was an administration whose fiscal statements were of great importance. A great trade of confidence was required. In this context, the sensible spread may lift because of fiscal statement users ‘ unrealistic outlooks for Arthur Andersen to supply a really high degree of confidence, seeing that the audit failure of such a elephantine house can go a catastrophe for the whole industry, even the whole economic system. Another ground could be that the populace demanded excessively much out of Arthur Andersen, and neglected the internal direction system of WorldCom and other confidence suppliers.

Another of import component of the outlooks spread in this instance was the public presentation spread caused by both lacking criterions and lacking public presentation.

First of all, Torahs, ordinances and criterions ignored the importance of regulation and commanding the struggles between confer withing and scrutinizing services. It was the audit houses ‘ duty to maintain off from any sort of work where hearers might do direction determinations for the auditee. ( Squires et al. , 2003 ) Consulting services posed great menaces to the independency of the hearer. However, there was no applicable regulation to curtail the same house to supply audit and non-audit services to the same administration at the same clip, although SEC noticed the menaces on the independency of audit by confer withing services. ( Squires et al. , 2003 ) Arthur Andersen was among the first houses supplying consulting services, which was rather profitable, even more profitable than its traditional audit services. ( Squires et al. , 2003 ) After confer withing took over auditing as the chief beginning of income for the house, it became a standard scheme to roll up audit with consulting services at Arthur Andersen. ( Squires et al. , 2003 ) Although Arthur Andersen noticed the struggle of involvements between confer withing and scrutinizing services, it still decided to take the hazard of maintaining the consulting services because of the significant possible gross generated by confer withing. In the instance of WorldCom, struggle between confer withing and scrutinizing was a large inducement for Arthur Andersen to execute malpractice in scrutinizing. It was rather doubtful whether the audit failure was more of Arthur Andersen ‘s failure to observe abnormalcies due to WorldCom ‘s misrepresentation, or Arthur Andersen ‘s involuntariness to observe and describe the accounting fraud at WorldCom. The deficiency of relevant regulations and lacking criterion played a cardinal function in easing the delinquency of scrutinizing.

In add-on, lacking public presentation was another cardinal component of the public presentation spread in the instance of WorldCom. To get down with, although WorldCom had been defined as a ‘high-risk ‘ client, Arthur Andersen still audited WorldCom as a ‘moderate-risk ‘ client without seting its audit attack consequently. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Furthermore, in malice of the denied entree to WorldCom ‘s general leger, Arthur Andersen was still willing to trust on the directors ‘ accounts without oppugning. ( Hamilton & A ; Alicia, 2006 ) Arthur Andersen failed to execute a proper grade of audit agnosticism. During a long period of clip, Arthur Andersen seemed non to do an enterprise in its auditing work. It had ne’er reported to the audit commission of restricted entree to of import information and forces, and still gave an sentiment of ‘fair ‘ in WorldCom ‘s audit study of conformity with petitions or information. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Apart from the struggles between audit and consulting services, which has already been discussed, there are several inducements sing Arthur Andersen ‘s lacking public presentation. In fact, Arthur Andersen had rather a cozy relationship with WorldCom. ( Hamilton & A ; Alicia, 2006 ) In other words, the societal distance between Arthur Andersen and WorldCom was non far plenty to vouch the independency of the hearer. ( Power, 2005 ) As one of the biggest clients of Arthur Andersen, WorldCom paid high fees for both audit and consulting services. ( Hamilton & A ; Alicia, 2006 ) Arthur Andersen ‘s via media in scrutinizing patterns may ensue in its involuntariness of losing such a large client and beginning of income. ( Hamilton & A ; Alicia, 2006 )

To sum up, the audit failure at WorldCom was to a big extent due to the lacking criterion and lacking public presentation. The confidence provided by Arthur Andersen did non run into the demands by scrutinizing criterions, gratuitous to state the demands by fiscal statement users and the populace.

3.3 Audit Risk in the Case of WorldCom

In this portion, we will take a expression at the built-in hazard, control hazard and sensing hazard at WorldCom severally.

To get down with, the built-in hazard of WorldCom is rather high sing the undermentioned facets. First, the complexness of WorldCom is rather high as a consequence of enlargement of the endeavor by amalgamations and acquisitions. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Second, the conditions of whole industry deteriorate since 2000 as a consequence of ferocious competition and decreased demand after the dot-com bubble prostration. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Besides, WorldCom was forced to cut down monetary value for telecommunication services in order to fit with the tendency in the whole industry and to catch up in the monetary value competition. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Furthermore, directors were under force per unit areas to modify the fiscal statement. They had great inducements to modify the expense-to-revenue ratio, one of the cardinal public presentation indexs, in order to accomplish the end of being the No. 1 stock on Wall Street. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 )

In respect to the control hazard, WorldCom ‘s board of manager did non hold an active engagement in the internal control processes. It was the CEO who took charge of board meetings and set dockets. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) The Board of managers and Audit Committee, who were neither familiar with nor involved in the commanding procedure of internal fiscal patterns, failed to supervise the CEO and the operation of the house. The improper usage of financess by the CEO was non noticed by the boards and Compensation Committee. The civilization and construction of internal control within WorldCom were rather weak. Senior accounting directors were given the entree to general legers and were able to do important accommodations against sentiments of the operating and fiscal directors from different concern units. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) In add-on, there were no expressed mechanisms for ‘whistle blowers ‘ to describe the misbehavior of senior directors.

Because of deficiency of information and restricted entree of communicating, Arthur Andersen did non do a proper appraisal of built-in hazard and control hazard at WorldCom. This led to a higher degree of acceptable audit hazard or a lower degree of confidence than planned and expected.

In add-on, Arthur Andersen did non take steps to cut down its sensing hazard at WorldCom. It merely assumed information provided by directors claimed were valid without trying sufficient groundss to verify these information. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) Apart from that, Arthur Andersen chiefly focused on misstatements in the fiscal statements caused by mistakes, non calculated deceit. ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) It treated WorldCom as a moderate-risk client in the auditing patterns after evaluation it as a high hazard client. Alternatively of maintain a necessary sum of audit agnosticism and professionalism, Arthur Andersen had ne’er reported its limitations to core information and forces to the audit commission.

3.4 Drivers of the Financial Audit Failure at Arthur Andersen

The failure to supply sufficient confidence at WorldCom was analysed from theoretical positions of outlooks spread and audit hazards above. The undermentioned portion of the essay will throw a visible radiation on the drivers of these failures from empirical positions. Two of the most important drivers are the undue influence of fiscal inducements and the failure of reputational inducements, which will be examined severally.

3.4.1 Undue Influence of Financial Incentives

Undue influence of the fiscal inducements is a cardinal factor that caused the audit failure at Arthur Andersen.

After the 1980s, as the growing of scrutinizing income became planate, the competition between audit houses became progressively ferocious. ( Squires, 2003 ) Arthur Andersen and other audit houses alike were under great force per unit area to spread out the scope of services in order to catch up in this competition and keep the gross growing. Driven by force per unit area of competition and fiscal inducements, Arthur Andersen adopted a gross revenues civilization, which non merely increased the degree of acceptable hazards well, but made the struggle of involvements between audit and confer withing even more intense. ( Squires, 2003 ) After confer withing services took over the traditional audit services and became the chief beginning of income for Arthur Andersen, Andersen applied a scheme to roll up audit with consulting services, in order to do more net incomes out of the combination of services. ( Squires, 2003 ) Despite the fact that everyone in the industry and the SEC noticed the eroding of hearer ‘s independency and other hazards posted by struggles between audit and non-audit services, ( Squires, 2003 ) there were no explicit and applicable ordinances to forestall the combination of these services.

WorldCom was a ‘highly coveted ‘ client, ( Kaplan & A ; Kiron, 2007 ) and had a long-run ‘cosy ‘ relationship with Arthur Andersen. ( Hamilton & A ; Alicia, 2006 ) Arthur Andersen would endure from great fiscal lost if losing a client as WorldCom. Due to the fright of losing such a valuable client, Arthur Andersen was loath to take a firm stand in fiscal statements accommodations when prosecuting significantly in confer withing services for WorldCom. ( Tackett, Wolf, & A ; Claypool, 2004 )

Driven by the undue influences of fiscal inducements, Arthur Andersen ‘s lacking public presentation in its auditing plants contributed to the audit failure at WorldCom.

3.4.2 Failure of Reputational Incentives

Harmonizing to Coffee ( 2006 ) , reputational capital plays a important function in curtailing hearer ‘s behavior. Reputational capital is critical for audit agents, because if they lost their repute, their sentiments on fiscal statements will non be regarded as true and just or authorised. The audit sentiment of such hearers will go useless for fiscal statement users. Thus, no 1 will purchase the services provided by the hearer any more. ( Coffee, 2006 ) Although hearers are paid by their client house on a private catching footing, they have to keep a big grade of independency in order to derive the trust of fiscal statement users. ( Coffee, 2006 ) Such reputational capital will be depreciated by executing error in audit patterns. It is irrational for hearers to assent in accounting fraud of the auditee, seeing the hazard of judicial proceeding and fright of reputational lost. ( Coffee, 2006 )

However, hearer is ‘an economic agent in his/her ain right ‘ . ( Mennicken & A ; Power, 2012 ) In the instance of WorldCom, the mechanism of seeking reputational capital failed to work, because Arthur Andersen was remunerated by WorldCom and became economically dependent. ( Power, 2005 ) As in the instance of WorldCom, fiscal inducements provided by non-audit services outweigh the fright of losing reputational capital. Alternatively of being engaged in scrutinizing activities, Arthur Andersen focused on confer withing services, which was much more profitable. ( Coffee, 2006 ) The diminution in the value of reputational capital resulted in less willingness and attempts for the hearers to protect it. The failure of limitations posed by reputational considerations, the larger income generated by non-audit services, together with the deficiency of exposure to judicial proceeding eroded the quality of audit work at Arthur Andersen. ( Coffee, 2006 )


By analyzing the theoretical positions of restrictions of fiscal audit in the instance of WorldCom, we can reason that the audit failure was to a big extent due to the malpractice of the external hearer, Arthur Andersen, who failed to supply confidence driven by fiscal and other inducements. However, fiscal hearers should non be the lone mark to be blamed, because confidence can be provided by external audit is rather limited. Fiscal audit can non be adapted to the assortment of demands for confidence. Apart from lacking public presentation of external hearers, lacking criterion and sensible outlooks spread besides contributed to the outlooks spread. In add-on, sensing hazard is the lone component of audit hazards can be controlled by the hearer. The internal control and other administration mechanisms of an endeavor are besides responsible for extenuating audit hazards and supplying confidence.

The essay made an analysis of restrictions of confidence can be provided by fiscal audit by concentrating on a fiscal hearer ‘s position. Improvements can be made by concentrating on a wider scope of beginnings of confidence and the interactions and struggles between these beginnings.