SYNOPSIS

This paper contributes to the deliberations on the potential consequences of requiring disclosure of the engagement partner's identity in the audit report. The PCAOB has recently suggested that this requirement will lead to enhanced audit quality due to increased engagement partner accountability and improved transparency of the audit process. The goal of our commentary is to examine this issue by considering factors that potentially affect audit quality in appearance and audit quality in fact, and applying insights from three distinct academic frameworks: source credibility, accountability, and the theory of affordances.

While prior evidence from source credibility research implies that a mandatory signature will likely increase audit quality in appearance, its impact on audit quality in fact remains unclear. Academic literature suggests that increased accountability will increase audit effort but is silent on the associated increase in audit effectiveness. As a result, mandatory disclosure is likely to increase the risk of over-auditing because audit services have the essential characteristics of a credence good. As for an increase in audit quality in appearance, the question remains whether the current perception of audit quality is too low or too high. The increase in public perceptions of audit quality without an associated increase in actual quality is a desirable accomplishment only when public perception of quality is below actual audit quality. Otherwise, the measure increases the gap between delivered audit quality and public perceptions of it. We suggest specific research opportunities in this area.

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