SYNOPSIS

The objective of this paper is to provide a systematic evaluation of independence as a foundational element of the auditing profession. We maintain that while independence is a theoretically appealing construct, it is fraught with practical problems surrounding its implementation, monitoring, and regulation. We analyze the current oversight of auditor independence and evaluate the need for auditor independence from the perspective of information users and information producers. In the process, we discuss important implications and intractable challenges that affect one or more parties involved in the financial-reporting process. Finally, we carefully evaluate alternatives to the current regulatory approach for managing auditor independence (i.e., proscribing various auditor-client relationships). We conclude that increasing audit committees' responsibilities for monitoring the auditor's independence—along with additional disclosure about threats and safeguards to auditor independence—is worthy of further consideration and debate as a path toward addressing the auditor independence conundrum.

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