SYNOPSIS

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the extent to which there are communication gaps among auditors and two user groups in their understanding of the messages conveyed by the standard audit report on the financial statements (SAR). Auditors, bankers, and nonprofessional investors reviewed background information on a hypothetical company that had received a SAR. Compared to auditors, users consider the SAR to be more important in assessing fraud risk even though they assess a lower likelihood that auditors have detected fraud. Further, the SAR gives users a significantly higher level of confidence in the company's management, investment soundness, and accomplishment of strategic goals than auditors. We also find several instances where the auditors and bankers differed from the nonprofessional investors in the interpretation of technical terms in the SAR, suggesting a between-user disagreement in interpreting the technical terms. Taken together, the results suggest that there are important differences between auditors and users in their understanding of the broad messages conveyed by the SAR (i.e., roles, responsibilities, and conclusions of an audit), and those differences are not driven by disagreements in interpreting the technical terms in the SAR.

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