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BUACC5935 Auditing And Assurance Services

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BUACC5935 Auditing And Assurance Services

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Course Code: BUACC5935
University: Federation University

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Country: Australia

1. From a search of the academic literature, discuss risk and independence with a view to understanding  where  key audit risks, and threats to auditor independence really lie.  What is it exactly that undermines auditor independence.
2. Review the literature on the failure of Enron, Worldcom and Lehman Bros and what lessons have been learnt by the accounting profession from these collapses.
An auditor is required to be extremely professional in performing his duties and remain unaffected by external influences that impact his audit work. The audit reports prepared by an auditor should highlight the financial performance of the company and represent an accurate and fair view of its state of affairs which will further assist the users in arriving at appropriate decisions. An auditor should be dignified and disciplined enough in performing his duties. Any external factors must not influence him (Sharp, 2006). He must not be impacted by threats or external factors that account for shortcomings in his audit work.
Prolonged dues of salary, biasness, investments in the business, threatened litigations, acceptance of gifts in the form of goods and services, etc. are some examples of external factors or threats that can come in the way of an auditor while he is performing his duties. For an auditor to diligently delegate his responsibilities, it is required for him to remain free from influences that come in his way of showing his duties. This will allow the auditor to perform his functions in a dignified manner and prepare an audit report to provide an accurate and fair view of the company’s financial performance and its state of affairs and maintain transparency in the same.
Incentives provided to an auditor are either direct incentive or indirect incentive. In the case of direct incentive, the interests of an auditor combine with that of the management in a way that makes way for intentional data fabrication and management. Direct incentives are actual or potential incentives that result in data manipulation with an ultimate intention of misleading the users about the company’s state of affairs and its financial performance (Manoharan, 2011). The incentives offered to the auditor are to manipulate the financial statements of the company to conceal any performance related, or such significant information of the company that is known by the users can disallow them from making investments in the company. Few financial dependence strategies are merged with different incentive schemes to eliminate such influence on the auditors that come in the way of their performing duties and maintain their dignity (Sikka, 2009)
The auditors can also be offered indirect incentives to impact the fairness of the audit report. This occurs when the auditor and the client share interpersonal relationship amongst them like being family members. An auditor should make sure that he doesn’t allow such relationships to come in his way of duties (Elder et. al, 2010). Moreover, an auditor should restrain himself from developing such relationships with the client that hampers his professionalism. The objectivity of the audit report is hugely impacted when such relationships exist or are established between the auditor and his client. The audit report is most likely to be authentic in the case of the absence of any such interpersonal relationships between the auditor and his client.
There are several other factors which affect the performance of the auditors. Out of which incentive is one of the most critical deriving elements. The opinions and advice of an auditor mostly depend on incentives and motivation. Incentives and motivation define the views and decisions of an auditor to a considerable extent (Goergen, 2012). The management of an organisation is required to assess the verdict of an auditor to check its appropriateness and effectiveness. The requirement of later judgment comes in the way when the audio quality is minimal due to the absence of judgment order. Apart from incentives, there are some other threats like familiarity threats, self-review threats, advocacy, self-interest threats and intimidation threats that may hamper the objectivity of an auditor.
Familiarity threat is one where the audit work is devoid of scepticism. The auditor when fails to or stands incapable of applying doubt in his work, familiarity threat arises. It happens when an auditor is unsure of his verdicts and because of which he depends entirely on the client’s opinion which impacts his own belief in such a way that he fails to apply scepticism in his work (Wiggins et. al, 2014). Familiarity threat arises when the auditor develops a cordial or interpersonal bond with the client or the company’s management in a way that disallows or restricts him from carrying out his research work and applying his logic on the behaviour of transactions.
When the auditor goes through his work the chances of self-review threats arise. This is mainly because of biasness. When the examination of the work in the organisation is done by the person who initiated the same action, there are chances for self-review threats to take place (Anthony et. al, 2003).  The auditor might become biased while reviewing his work but might behave judgmental when the same work is considered, examined and cross-checked by the management of the company.
When the promoters of the company are appointed as the auditor of the same company, advocacy threat arises. It is a threat that is most likely to take place when the auditors of the company are also the promoters of the same company. This is because the auditor of the company will most likely be advocating the company rather than providing the accurate and fair view of the company’s state of affairs. He might promote the company based on personal biasness ignoring facts.
Threats that are due to finances, emotions and such other risks make way for self-interest threats. When an auditor intentionally or unintentionally upholds his interest in a way that shows his disinterest in providing quality services chances of self-review threats are most likely to take place (Wright & Charles, 2012). The auditor is required to be professional enough utilising being self-independent in his opinions and verdict during the audit.
When the auditor is threatened with getting replaced by another auditor, he is most likely to get biased, affected or influenced giving way for intimidation threats. The auditor might manipulate data and such other information under the influence of danger of being replaced. He may knowingly take a wrong decision instead of being aware of the truthfulness and genuineness of the verdicts on the organisation financial statements (Zhang et. al, 2007).
What auditing is accounting is significantly essential. It must be noted that auditing and accounting are both critical for an organisation. The two are dependent on one other in such a way that in the absence of one the other is likely not to take place. In the case of lack of accounting, auditing cannot be initiated. Both, auditing and accounting help in shaping the economy for countless reasons. The auditors verify the accounting statements of the company to evaluate their fairness and give an accurate and fair view of the opinions on the same.
Ever since the demise of big organisations like Lehman Bros, Enron and WorldCom the genuineness of the accounting system is doubted, questioned and has offered lessons that are required to be taken from these failures.
The issues that the accounting profession came across in the Lehman Bros. scenario were a very negative one. To avoid such situation to take place in the future, the companies must learn from the reasons accounting in the failure of Lehman Brothers which was once a huge name and a renowned brand that now no longer exist (Wearden et. al, 2008). To eliminate unethical practices in the company, policymakers like Securities Exchange Commission and IFRS should be adopted which regulates effectiveness in operations and harsh methods for the company to engage in. It was noticed that in Lehman Brothers, the use of Repo 105 transactions was hugely incorporated before the date of reporting. The company after the time of reporting borrowed to buy back these transactions (Hoffelder, 2012). If there have been adequate audit work done, the chances of the occurrence of such inadequate Repo 105 transactions could have been dealt with. The presence of such operations was mainly on the part of auditing professionals who failed to highlight this area of concern and also due to the governing bodies that were unable to trace the adoption of unethical practices within Lehman Bros. For the statutory authorities to be aware of such unethical practices incorporated by a company, it is required for the accountants to appropriately record all the transactions and prepare the financial statements and auditors to properly evaluate the company’s financial statements and effectively perform their audit work (Berensen et. al, 2001). It is also a lesson for other companies to safeguard itself from disintegration and its failure. Another valuable experience that can be taken from the collapse of Lehman is not to practice or undertake unethical measures, and to avoid the same, there must be regular checks in the organisation. This is because it is not just the demise of one company, but it is also the impact it puts on the entire economy (Berensen et. al, 2001). If ASA 707 were present during the failure of Lehman Bros, the auditors would not have been able to hide significant information and other critical matters from the users to uplift the company’s reputation. If ASA 707 standards were present at that time and were given due importance by the auditors of Lehman, then it shall be easy for them to update the users of every activity of the company that needs to be known by them.
The complexity of the American standards of accounting was highlighted with the failure of the big name like Enron. Certain off-balance sheet items like dodges were seen to be given due importance while not considering essential principles and guidelines. To better the effectiveness of the standards, FASB made due attempts which were also ruined using relentless lobbying.. The need for implementation of specific measures was also determined that are universally accepted and acclaimed. This highlighted the need for the formulation and application of practical and profound principles by the Securities Exchange Commission. These principles would not focus on exaggerated described rules but instead would focus on paying attention to single figures. The need for accountants and auditors to interrogate the organisation regarding its activities and everything else before their work commencement was also learnt from the disintegration of Enron. It could have happened due to the inability of the auditors of Arthur Anderson in tracing the financial lists for a company like Enron that was way more complicated and still carrying out their audit work (Maines & Wahen, 2006). The offering, stocking, locking and barrelling of the obligations gathered from the private accounting firm for accounting purpose the government, will be one significant learning of its kind that can be taken from the disintegration of Enron. One of the most significant lessons taken from the untimely demise of Enron could be taking away the duty of appointing and choosing auditors from the senior management of the company. Considering the complexities of the current times, it is required for corporates to take lessons from the disintegration of Enron to safeguard themselves from failures in the future.
The failure of WorldCom taught that it is essential for the internal auditors of an organization to extensively review the affairs of the same in case if it has been doing good in the external space for it is most likely for such companies to get into unethical measures and take undue advantage from its brand name and goodwill in the industry. At the same time, it is also required for the external auditors to assess the organisation’s internal environment while being disciplined, professional, unbiased and dignified enough during the same. WorldCom was into an illegal activity where the transfer of all implied expenses into the capex where practised along with the clear-cut cost practice that was done employing paying service costs to lease the local lines. This calls for the accounting profession to understand the need for identifying these costs and when such costs accrue to avoid such a situation in the coming time. The need to appoint external auditors is one of the most significant lessons learnt with the failure of WorldCom. 
Anthony H., Shelley, C,J., & Catanach, R. (2003).  Enron: A Financial Reporting Failure. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.law.villanova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1339&context=vlr
Berensen, A.,Richard, A., and Oppel, JR. (2001) Once-Mighty Enron Strains Under Scrutiny. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/28/business/once-mighty-enron-strains-under-scrutiny.html
Elder, J. R., Beasley S. M., & Arens A. A. (2010).  Auditing and Assurance Services. Person Education, New Jersey: USA
Goergen , M. (2012).  International Corporate Governance. Prentice Hall.
Hoffelder, K. (2012). New Audit Standard Encourages More Talking. Harvard Press.
Maines, L. & Wahlen, J. (2006) The Nature of Accounting Information Reliability: Inferences from Archival and Experimental Research. Accounting Horizons, 20(4), 389-425. DOI: 10.2308/acch.2006.20.4.399
Manoharan, T.N. (2011). Financial Statement Fraud and Corporate Governance. The George Washington University.
Sharp, D. J. (2006). Cases in Business Ethics. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Sikka, P. (2009). Financial Crisis and the Silence of Auditors. Accounting Organizations and Society. [online]. 34(7), p. 868-873. DOI: 10.1016/j.aos.2009.01.004  
Wearden, G,  Teather, D & Treanor, J. (2008). Banking crisis: Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy protection. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/sep/15/lehmanbrothers.creditcrunch
Wiggins, R.Z., Piontek, T., & Metrick, A. (2014).  The Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy A. Retrieved from: https://som.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/001-2014-3A-V1-LehmanBrothers-A-REVA.pdf
Wright, M.K., & Charles, J. (2012). Auditor independence and internal information systems audit quality. Business Studies Journal. 4(2), 63-84. Retrieved from: https://scitecresearch.com/journals/index.php/jrbem/article/viewFile/284/230
Zhang, Y.,  Zhou, J.,  & Zhou, N. (2007) Audit committee quality, auditor independence, and internal control weakness. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy. 26,  300-327. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278-4254(07)00020-8 

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