Posts Tagged: auditing

How the business press stabilizes and destabilizes notions of audit failure

The eternal audit expectations gap is never as pronounced as when a company suddenly collapses or when a company announces significant restatements of, or errors in, its financial accounts. In these cases the auditor is dragged out of the shadows and asked why s/he didn’t warn investors and other stakeholders of what was, or was likely, to come. Auditors will here refer to materiality levels and audit standards as a defense, while the accusing users of the audit will refer to the ‘promises’ of the audit—i.e., that the auditor will provide assurance to management’s assertions. These discussions are never fully settled. Only when the auditor loses in court—which very rarely happens—do we approach a settlement of whether the audit was a failure or not. Still, even though the issue is never completely settled the discussion of whether a contested audit was a failure or not nevertheless tend to stabilize over time. But how does that happen?

Building on material I collected for my dissertation I have—together with Gustav Johed—explored this very question, focusing on the role of the media in this process. The result of this exploration is documented as a chapter in Josef Pallas, Lars StrannegĂ„rd and Stefan Jonsson’s anthology Organizations and the Media: Organizing in a Mediatized World.[1] What we found was, as expected, that media play an important role in stabilizing notions of audit failure. But we also found that it is much too simplistic to equate this important role with the media acting as judges over the audit’s fate as a ‘success’ or failure. Instead, we found a much more complex process in which many different actors took part. Sure, the business press had an influence over other actors but so did a number of these actors have over the business press. To bring some analytical order to the process we observed—the debate about the quality of the audit of the financial services firm Intrum Justitia, which in 2003 had to disclose errors in the financial reports due to faults in the accounts of its British subsidiary—we propose three main roles for the media based on patterns observed in the studied material.

First, we notice the (rather obvious) role of the media as an instigator of opinions and propositions. By choosing which stories to publish, the setting of headlines, and through editorials and opinion pieces the media is in a good position to influence the opinions of others that matter. We call this role, the agency role. In the case explored in this study we found the business press to be rather tough in its rhetoric in headlines and so on but at the same time rather restrained in its factual claims and blames. This, we did not have the opportunity to explore in any depth in this book chapter. It would however be interesting to see further analysis about how the style of media reporting affects propositions such as whether an audit is a failure or not. This notwithstanding, whether or not the media have any impact at all depend on how their propositions are taken up by later users.

Second, the business press can play a role as something that other actors ‘use’ and refer to. When the propositions of the business press are picked up by relevant others, the media acts (makes a difference)[2]. We call this role the actor role. Although, it is probably fair to assume that if the business press is to have a role as an actor they must first take an agency role, i.e., publish something, it is worth notice that the absence of the media in the debate could act too. It is always difficult proving a negative and yet, calling for audit failure in the absence of a media debate is probably an uphill battle. Here too, further investigation is warranted.

Third, we found that the media can be used as not only a bat with which to beat down competing arguments or make ones own position more pungent, the media can also be used as, well, a medium. We call this role the arena role. Here, the media serves as a platform for other actors to get their message across. With this we do not imply that the media should be neutral or impartial. What gets printed is after all ultimately in the hands of the business press. Nevertheless, the business press is an important amplifier of other actors’ voices and, as far as we can tell from a one case analysis, the media is more interested in debates and selling copies (advertising) than promoting a specific argument about an audit’s status as a failure or not.[3]

With this study we do not suggest that we have found a solution for the eternal audit expectations gap. There are good reasons to expect that this gap will not only prevail but be sustained and even maintained.[4] What we do suggest is, however, that this study shed some light on how this gap in local and situated cases of alleged audit failures is sufficiently bridged to stabilize the notion of the audit as a failure or not.

  1. Carrington, T. and Johed, G. (2014). How the Business Press Stabilizes and Destabilizes Notions of Audit Failure: The Case of Intrum Justitia, in Pallas, J., StrannegĂ„rd, L. and Jonsson, S. (eds) Organizations and the Media: Organizing in a Mediatized World, pp. 116–131, Routledge.  ↩
  2. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press.  ↩
  3. This is, of course, another way in which the business press acts, in a Latorian sense. Still, the purpose in this paper is to draw attention to the ways the business press mediates in the stabilizing and destabilizing of notions of audit failure and not to conduct a full-blown Actor-Network Theory analysis. Hence, we chose the risk of being accused of theoretical inconsistency for what we consider to be gains in rhetorical clarity. Yes, the business press acts when assuming the arena role, but it does so in an interestingly different way.  ↩
  4. Power, M. (1997). The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford University Press.  ↩
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An empirical test of the hierarchical construct of professionalism and managerialism in the accounting profession (updated)

Update 2013-11-13: The text has been updated to reflect the fact that the article is now published

Research into the tension between professionalism and commercialism in the accounting profession is inconclusive and warrants greater attention. How to conceptualize and measure these constructs are thus pressing concerns. Using questionnaire data from 1646 auditors in Sweden, and applying confirmatory factor analysis and structural regression models within a structural equation modeling framework to a measurement model developed by Suddaby et al. (2009), we find little empirical evidence for the existence of the two logics of professionalism and managerialism (i.e., commercialism) as two higher-order latent constructs shared by auditors. However, we find that two sub-elements of the proposed higher-order constructs do discriminate between each other in a way that could indicate two exclusive value statements in the accounting profession connected to the professionalism-commercialism tension: these are the respective emphases on independence enforcement and client commitment.

This is the abstract to the first article we* publish based on a survey sent to all 3.999 chartered (and registered) auditors in Sweden. I am of course happy to see it in press print** but also a little curious as to its reception. On the hand these kinds of papers can always be dismissed with arguments such as “well of course you didn’t find any correlations – you asked the wrong questions!”. On the other hand: that is kind of our point! We went through great pains to replicate the state of the art in this type of research, just because of this. There is never any “right” or “wrong” questions. What we wanted to know is whether, the model as suggested by Suddaby et al. (2009), can produce valid result with these kinds of methods. Hence, I don’t buy these kinds of dismissals.

On a more positive note I really hope this article will challenge some of the best minds in audit research—from both sides of the quantitative/qualitative divide—to think anew concerning the tensions between commercialism and professionalism. We make some suggestions in the paper but I think there is potential for some really interesting work, seeking to understand what it means to be a professional auditor and how this interplays with demands on the auditor to also be commercially successful.

The article “An empirical test of the hierarchical construct of professionalism and managerialism in the accounting profession” is found at


* Thomas Carrington, Tobias Johansson, Gustav Johed, and Peter Öhman.
* * Carrington, T., Johansson, T., Johed, G., and Öhman, P. (2013.) An empirical test of the hierarchical construct of professionalism and managerialism in the accounting profession. Behavioral Research in Accounting, In-PressVol. 25, No. 2, pp. 1-20.

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Keeping up appearances

Recently it was brought to my attention that a conference paper of mine is the third most viewed “publication” in the Uppsala University library database DiVA. This, I have to admit, made me a little embarrassed. Because, people kept congratulating me for this thing, which I could neither understand nor explain. I was completely bewildered why this “work in progress” would be the text that, out of all the things I have written, would get the most attention. I quickly realised that my only real choices—if I did not want to continue the “I don’t know” mantra at the risk of looking stupid for not knowing, or lazy for not finding out—were to either just smile and try to keep up the appearance that this conference paper was some kind of master piece or to go to the bottom of this mystery and try to find at least a partial explanation for the paper’s popularity. The choice was of course easy. How could I not want to know?

Screenshot 2012 12 09 2229

First of all it is worth noting that the database entry is the third most “viewed” on DiVA. This is an important distinction because the paper is not downloadable. (A later published version of the paper can be downloaded from Elsevier but this conference paper version can’t.) On the other hand, there is no way of knowing that the paper is not downloadable when it appears in the list of search results so from that perspective the distinction is not important. What is important is to be clear about that very few people have actually read the conference paper. That a lot of people have clicked on the link to the database entry for the paper in the list of DiVA search results does hence not mean that we can draw any conclusions about the quality of the paper.

In fact, I would submit that the conference paper is not that particularly good. Although I think the empirical parts of the paper are OK, I am not especially proud of the theoretical parts of the conference paper. Fortunately the published version of the paper is much better. The paper is published as An analysis of the demands on a sufficient audit: Professional appearance is what counts! and can be found in Critical Perspectives on Accounting Vol. 21, No. 8, pp. 669-682. As of december 2012 the journal article is cited by one other paper according to Scopus, and by seven other sources by the more generous Google Scholar. And although only three years have passed since its publication—and it hence is not impossible that a flood of references are still to come—I do not expect the journal article to be referenced in anyway nearly similar numbers to the conference paper. The mystery is not why the journal article is not referenced in the thousands but why the conference paper has been viewed so ridiculously often.

So, how can the popularity of the database entry in Uppsala University’s library catalog DiVA be explained? Well, if one search Google for the title (or parts of the title) of the paper not much shows up. This tell us that the answer has something to do with the content of the database rather than the subject or the title as such. Actually, the story of this database entry tell us a lot about the state of audit research in Uppsala, and Sweden more generally, as one soon finds that there is not much of it in this database. Hence, supply is scarce. Simultaneously, demand is apparently high. And in particular demand is high for studies of “low audit quality”. A search for “low audit quality” (in december 2012) result in five hits. Mine is at the top. Three of the five hits are publications from 2012 and only my entry is a text about financial auditing. It would seem that people are really interested in low audit quality. Present and future students hence ought to keep this in mind when choosing subjects for their bachelor and master theses. (And I and my colleagues should also return to the subject.)

From this perspective the popularity of the database entry is however a little ironic because, as is apparent from the discussion above, I changed the title of the paper between the conference and the subsequent publication of the paper three years later. The paper still is about low audit quality but it is definitely not about “audit quality at the low end of the audit quality continuum” as the title of the conference paper reads. It was however submitted as such to Critical Perspectives on Accounting but I had to change the title to “An analysis of the demands on a sufficient audit” as one of the anonymous reviewers made me aware of the nonsense of talking about an audit quality continuum as if it was a single metric or a compound of metrics that could be measured along a single dimension. It is now clear to me (as it should have been already when I submitted the paper for publication) that audit quality is far more complex than that. Actually, I made this observation the main point of the introduction of the journal article. Later I also changed the second part of the title to “professional appearance is what counts”, by suggestion from the editor after the paper was accepted for publication. It was a good suggestion, which I accepted without alteration or hesitation.

The second part of the title is good because it so accurately describes the main point made in the paper. And this is also why I find the popularity of the title of the conference paper so ironic. Because, the main point of both versions of the paper is, as the later title so clearly emphasises, that although quality in a technical sense is important when deciding what is good and bad auditing, what really matter is the appearance of the auditor as professional. And this is ironic because I suspect that this is exactly what is going on here too. People find the database entry because they search for “low audit quality” and  because there are few if any alternatives in the database. But this does not mean that they have to click on the link. They could just leave DiVA and go to Google Scholar instead. The reason why they click on the link, I believe, has to do with the title having such a scientific ring to it, especially the part I later, thanks to the reviewers, came to view as the most flawed part of the paper: “the audit quality continuum”.

If this is true I guess I should be a bit embarrassed by the popularity of (the title of) the conference paper. Because, what makes people click on the link is the part of the paper I am least proud of. Fortunately they cannot read the paper. Furthermore the popularity of the database entry also gave me this chance to make “clever” analogies between the content of the paper and the popularity of the paper. On the balance, I have therefore decided to be happy for the popularity of the database entry, if nothing else for it being such a good indicator that Uppsala University need more audit research! Furthermore, the conference paper may not be the paper with the highest quality I have written, but (for those who haven’t read this blog post) it sure helps keep up the appearance of me as a competent researcher!

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Avhandlingar inom Àmnena redovisning och revision utkomna 2008-2009

För Svenska Revisionsakademins rÀkning har jag sammanstÀllt avhandlingar utkomna Ären 2008-2009 inom omrÄdena redovisning och revision. PÄ min hÄrddisk gör den hÀr informationen begrÀnsad nytta. DÀrför delar jag hÀr pÄ min blogg med mig av sammanstÀllningen. MÄlgruppen för den hÀr informationen torde förvisso vara ganska liten men sÄ Àr den hÀr bloggens lÀsekrets. Och har Du lÀst Ànda hit sÄ tillhör Du förmodligen bÄda dessa grupper varför jag dristar mig att utbrista i en förhoppning om: trevlig lÀsning!

Bilden av det Goda Företaget – Text och siffror i VD-brev
Författare: Kristina JonÀll
Organisation: Handelshögskolan vid Göteborgs universitet
Disputationsdatum: 25 september 2009

Companies’ annual reports traditionally include a Letter to Shareholders, signed by the company CEO. Well-positioned near the front of the annual report, such letters are an important element of a company’s communication to its readers. Too often, however, readers pay only cursory attention to the Letter to Shareholder, or even ignore it. Yet the Letter plays an important role in presenting the company’s version of corporate reality for it give us a better understanding of how a company perceives itself and wishes to be perceived by others.
The study examines the Letter to Shareholders for three multi-national Swedish companies, SCA, SKF and Ericsson over a three-year period. The Letters are studied closely, in connection with an analysis of the companies’ reported numbers (e.g., financial statements) using a social constructionist approach and taking a discursive perspective. A social constructionist approach means that when people speak and write, they produce and organize our reality. A discursive perspective, following discourse psychological theory, maintains that language is used in different ways, depending on the goals of the speaker or writer. In addition, the study views accounting as an institution, consisting of principles, rules and models that evolve over time.
By tracing similarities and differences in purpose, content and style, the study reveals how companies create and/or reinforce a company ÂĄmage in their Letter to Shareholders. The study highlights how the Letter to Shareholders is framed, using both text and numbers, in
particular the extent to which text and numbers agree or disagree. In focus are the companies’ commentaries about choices among accounting principles and rules, as well as statements regarding their internal decisions and reactions to external events. The ways in which companies use the Letter to Shareholders to make themselves accountable and trustworthy to stakeholders is also of interest in this research.
The study reveals that the Letter to Shareholder, from company to company, has certain features in common but also distinct differences. One important commonality is that all the companies strive to present themselves as trustworthy and legitimate, with unique resources that can satisfy human needs and wants. Another commonality is the use of similar linguistic tools to convince the reader of certain perceptions. The main difference relates to the content of the Letters. One company In the study provides regular feedback between expectations and outcomes, another focuses on products, and a third concentrates on concerns of stakeholder groups.
The study provides an insight into how a company, through its CEO, presents its company image and uses text to convey trustworthy information.

Börsbolags redovisning av alternativa resultatbegrepp : en studie om hur, och varför, bolag noterade pÄ Stockholmsbörsen redovisar Non-GAAP Measures
Författare: Mikael Scheja
Organisation: Linköpings universitet
Disputationsdatum: 12 juni 2009

Det har det blivit vanligt att alternativa resultatbegrepp, resultatmĂ„tt som inte Ă€r definierade enligt GAAP, förekommer i börsnoterade företags finansiella rapportering. SĂ„dana alternativa resultatbegrepp uttrycks ofta som Non-GAAP Measures, förkortat NGM. Tidigare forskning om NGM har i stor utstrĂ€ckning bedrivits med kvantitativa metoder och undersökt hur vĂ€l redovisningen av NGM förklarar ett vĂ€rde pĂ„ företags aktier i jĂ€mförelse med GAAP men inte inriktats pĂ„ vad upprĂ€ttarnas motiv Ă€r för redovisningen. Forskning om bolagens utformning av NGM och i vilken utstrĂ€ckning mĂ„tten förekommer har dessutom haft en begrĂ€nsad omfattning. Syftet med avhandlingen Ă€r dĂ€rför att öka kunskapen om och förstĂ„elsen av börsbolags redovisning av alternativa resultatbegrepp. Som titeln anger behandlas tvĂ„ forskningsfrĂ„gor: ”hur redovisar bolag pĂ„ Stockholmsbörsen andra resultatbegrepp Ă€n de som definieras av GAAP (Non-GAAP Measures)?” och ”varför redovisar bolagen pĂ„ Stockholmsbörsen NGM?”.
Redovisningsnormering utgĂ„r frĂ„n att redovisningen ska upprĂ€ttas för att ge anvĂ€ndbarhet till anvĂ€ndaren. Redovisningsteorier ger dock uttryck för att upprĂ€ttare kan ha andra motiv. Inom Positiv redovisningsteori framförs att upprĂ€ttare kan ha incitament att redovisa NGM p.g.a. kontrakt vars utfall beror av redovisningsmĂ„tt. Teori om resultatutjĂ€mning anger att upprĂ€ttare Ă€r opportunistiska nyttomaximerare som tror att de kan pĂ„verka anvĂ€ndare genom redovisningens utformning. Olika förklaringar finns dĂ€rför till varför upprĂ€ttare kan komma att tillĂ€mpa s.k. ”earnings management”. I redovisningslitteratur avser begreppet earnings management företagsledningars avsiktliga val av redovisningsprinciper för att uppnĂ„ ett visst redovisningsresultat. Principvalen berör en post eller transaktions vĂ€rdering och nĂ€r, eller om, transaktionen ska redovisas. I avhandlingen förklaras att earnings management Ă€ven kan tillĂ€mpas av upprĂ€ttare genom att principer vĂ€ljs för utformningen av redovisade resultatbegrepp.
Avhandlingen visar bl.a. att NGM förekommer i stort antal, anvÀnds av de flesta upprÀttare och i stor utstrÀckning Àr unika för varje företag. Bolag redovisar oftast NGM för att justera ett resultat för jÀmförelsestörande poster och för att möjliggöra jÀmförelser av en enhet över tiden. Det Àr vanligt att bolagen i sina delÄrsrapporter redovisar NGM pÄ ett mer framtrÀdande sÀtt relativt GAAPmÄtten. AnvÀndare behöver vara medvetna om att NGM i de flesta fall Àr unika för olika bolag och innehÄller summeringar av olika intÀkts- och kostnadsposter. MÄnga NGM redovisas utan att det upprÀttande bolaget definierar resultatbegreppets innehÄll och det Àr vanligt att en lÀsare av en rapport inte kan se hur ett NGM berÀknats. Ett bolags redovisning av NGM förÀndras Àven över Äret i stor utstrÀckning. En svÄr aspekt Àr kompromissen mellan olika kvalitativa egenskaper i ett NGM. Ska mÄttet vara relevant kan det bli svÄrt att kombinera med jÀmförbarhet och tillförlitlighet. OsÀkerhet betrÀffande vad NGM innehÄller för intÀkts- och kostnadsposter och förÀndringen av innehÄllet i mÄtten över tiden leder till att redovisade NGM Àr svÄra att jÀmföra inom och mellan bolag. Men det kan ocksÄ leda till ytterligare konsekvenser. Informationsasymmetri, kontraktskostnader, kostnader för allokering av kapital, risk för negativt urval och moralisk risk hos upprÀttare kan minska nyttan i redovisade NGM för anvÀndare.
Tidigare litteratur har fört fram tvÄ huvudsakliga motiv och förklaringar till upprÀttarnas redovisning av NGM: förbÀttrad information till anvÀndaren och earnings management p.g.a. opportunism eller kontrakt. Genom avhandlingens metod, en kombination av en genomgÄng av finansiella rapporter tillsammans med intervjuer med upprÀttare, framkommer dock slutsatsen att det ocksÄ finns upprÀttare vilka saknar ett övergripande motiv för redovisning av NGM. De kan frÄn tid till annan styras av olika faktorer utan nÄgot mönster av samvariation mellan faktorerna eller upprÀttarna. Dessutom visar det sig att en del upprÀttare med förbÀttrad information som motiv inte fullt ut klarar att redovisa NGM som tillfredstÀller de underliggande normativa kvalitativa egenskaperna jÀmförbarhet, tillförlitlighet och relevans.

Att sprÀnga normer: om mÄlstyrningsprocesser för jÀmstÀlldhetsintegrering
Författare: Eva Wittbom
Organisation: Stockholms universitet
Disputationsdatum: 29 maj 2009

How do management control systems function when under pressure to mainstream gender equality into a core business? This question is being discussed with an interpretive approach from both the institutional and the gender perspective. Empirical evidence stems from two longitudinal case studies within the Swedish public sector where management by objectives (MBO) is the current model for governmental control. The analysis is based on four aspects: management by objectives, gender mainstreaming, the concept of loose coupling from organization studies and institutional change as translation.
The gender perspective highlights constructions that tend to enable or to hamper gender equality. The sociological institutional perspective sheds light over rules, norms and culture. In the empirical cases, it becomes evident that formal goals within MBO proved unable to overrule prevailing norms that have grounded a well established gendered (malestream) culture.  Control systems are designed to handle new issues; however, in the cases studied, this took place merely normatively and in line with the core business, not by changing the grounds on which the control system stands. The MBO model consequently lacks the ability to integrate gender in a transformative mode.

Financial accounting quality in a European transition economy : the case of the Czech Republic
Författare: Katerina Hellström
Organisation: Handelshögskolan i Stockholm
Disputationsdatum: 8 maj 2009

This dissertation documents the quality of financial accounting information in a transition economy, the Czech Republic. High quality accounting information decreases the risks for investors, promotes investment activities and increases the ability of companies to raise funds at a reasonable cost of capital. Countries with high quality accounting information have a comparative advantage in attracting financial capital. Transition economies – i.e. countries switching from centrally planned to market economies – are typically in need of capital. Therefore a new accounting regulation had to be developed that would satisfy the needs of new private investors.
The quality of financial accounting information depends on accounting quality (an outcome of applied accounting principles) and disclosure quality (an outcome of the amount and characteristics of information provided in the financial statements). Accounting quality is measured as the value relevance of accounting numbers and certain attributes of earnings which promote the value relevance. Disclosure quality is measured in terms of mandatory disclosure requirements, actual disclosures of companies (i.e. the level of compliance with legislation) and additional information provided voluntarily by the companies. Sweden is used as a benchmark for well-developed market economy and the quality of financial accounting information in the Czech Republic is systematically compared to the quality of Swedish financial accounting information throughout the dissertation.
The results show that both accounting and disclosure quality in the Czech Republic were inferior in the beginning of the transition period. Over time, the value relevance of accounting numbers has however improved. The change in the value relevance may be attributed in particular to improvements in disclosure quality. The key factors behind the development were improved accounting legislation and control mechanisms, accompanied by changes in the business climate including higher sophistication of both the producers and users of the financial information.

Kundorientering och ekonomistyrning i offentlig sektor
Författare: Fredrika Wiesel
Organisation: Stockholms universitet
Disputationsdatum: 14 januari 2009

It is a trend in the public sector to re-cast citizens and beneficiaries as customers or consumers of public services. While earlier research has addressed different aspects of how the implementation of customer orientation affects public sector organisations’ management control systems, this research has tended to have an overly narrow focus on performance measurement. There is also a paucity of empirically based studies in this area.
This thesis addresses how the implementation of customer orientation affects public sector organizations’ management control systems from a broader perspective. It also focuses on the leverage of economic, institutional and technical factors and the interplay between these factors for the development of lateral control in public sector organisations.
While the implementation of customer orientation in the public sector brings about demands for increased attention to lateral control aspects, management control in the public sector has traditionally been based on a vertical control model. In addition, lateral and vertical control is founded in different and conflicting institutional logics. This thesis illustrates under what circumstances the parallel presence of the two institutionally conflicting control models can cause tensions in an organisation, or lead to embeddedness of lateral control aspects in a public sector organisation’s dominant vertical management control system. It also addresses the impact of such embeddedness for the ability of public sector organisations to prioritize between different customers and customer needs.
The thesis is based on a longitudinal research project in two Swedish state agencies and consists of four embedded cases. The cases include operations covered by state grants as well as operations that generate their revenues from fee-paying customers and competitive contracting. The case study data have been collected through semi-structured interviews, observations and document studies.

Entreprenörer som redovisare – bokslutsprocessen i gasellföretag
Författare: Marita Blomkvist
Organisation: Handelshögskolan vid Göteborgs universitet
Disputationsdatum: 5 december 2008

Entrepreneurs seem to be highly valuable for the firms in which they are involved. However, the knowledge of the role of accounting in a context of entrepreneurship is limited. In fact, some literature on entrepreneurship indicates that the role of accounting is only about the past and therefore not of interest for entrepreneurs in the entrepreneurial process.
This dissertation reports the results of two empirical studies. The first study is a qualitative pilot study of five entrepreneurs in fast growing firms and their participation in the year-end procedure. The respondents were presented the adjustments in the final step of the recording process and the annual report in order to assess their participation and to focus on how the entrepreneurs as producers of accounting reflect and act in relation to other actors and to the process of reporting. The pilot study found that the entrepreneurs were certainly involved in use and produce of certain accounting in the year-end procedures. The second study is based on the result from the pilot study and on agency theory the study aimed to describe and explain how and why entrepreneurs in successful fast growing firms, i.e. Gazelle firms, compared with a control group of managers in not growing firms, are participating in the year-end procedures. Also, the study aimed to analyse differences between entrepreneurs ́ participation and other managers ́ participation in this process. The study focused on the activities in the year-end procedures concerned with the values of R&D, stock and work-in-progress and accounts receivables. In order to find entrepreneurs the survey was sent to a sample of 257 managers of Gazelle firms and to a sample of 227 managers in not growing firms. Also, the annual report from the firms where the respondents where involved were collected. This data was also included in the study. The responding rate was 50% from both groups. The most notable finding is, in contradiction to literature on entrepreneurship, that entrepreneurs in Gazelle firms use and produce formal financial accounting information. Entrepreneurs in Gazelle firms spend more time and they are also involved in discussions with more actors compared with managers in not growing firms. Further, the results indicate that entrepreneurs in Gazelle firms will participate to a larger extent when the profitability in the firm decreases compared to managers in not growing firms. Finally, the dissertation gives insight in the role of formal financial accounting in the context of entrepreneurship, a research area we know little about.

Two studies on management accounting systems and performance in Swedish firms
Författare: Mats Karén Sten Ljunggren
Organisation: Uppsala universitet
Disputationsdatum: 11 november 2008

The two studies reported in this thesis deals with two related management accounting problems with an empirical basis in Swedish firms.
In the first study we analyse the existence of measures and methods within management accounting practice in Swedish firms. We aim at a systematic description of practice. We conduct a field study with broad data collection. We search for differences in firms and their contingencies. The results of the study showed some distinctive patterns. The existence of measures and methods is widespread and at the same time limited in the single firm. Simple measures and methods are more frequent than more complicated ones. There are some connections to chosen contingency variables, but with only 15 firms. Some firms do not seem to fit into one of the patterns identified.
In the second study we analyse performance in Swedish firms. How can performance best be explained? To do this we start using two competing models, one model inspired from traditional contingency theory and one where a relation-based theory view is incorporated into a traditional contingency theory model. The two models differ in their view of variable causality: single directed in traditional contingency theory and reciprocal non recursive in the relation-based model. We analyse the explanatory power of the relation-based model in two steps, is there a reciprocal adjustment between the chosen variables and is there a positive interaction affect on performance? Then we compare the two models explanatory power of performance. From this point of departure we develop the traditional contingency theory model to a congruence fit-model and then compare this model with the relation-based model. In a concluding discussion we use a neo-contingency theory view model inspired by concepts such as quasi-fit and hetero-performance and compare to the relation-based model. An electronic survey was used in the data collection. The results showed that the relation-based-model has a greater explanatory power then models inspired by traditional contingency theory.

Revision och rÄdgivning : efterfrÄgan, kvalitet och oberoende
Författare: Tobias Svanström
Organisation: Handelshögskolan vid UmeÄ universitet
Disputationsdatum: 13 juni 2008

Auditing is common in many organizations and a legal requirement for all limited liability companies in Sweden (ABL 9:1). In directives from the government it is clearly stated that small firms will be exempted from the statutory audit requirement. In light of this forthcoming change in regulations, this thesis is used to analyze which factors are associated with a demand for auditing. Analysis in this thesis is based on a national survey including 900 Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Around 2/3 of respondent’s (CEO or CFO) state that the firm will choose to have audited accounts even in the absence of such a legal requirement. Based on responses from 421 firms, logistic regression results indicated that firms purchasing advisory services from an audit firm will choose to have their accounts audited to a higher extent than those firms not receiving advisory services. This finding, not identified in prior studies, is linked to advisory services being of higher quality when the audit firm also performs audit work. The demand for auditing is further positively associated with firm size, use of a Big 4 audit firm and firms located in the county of SmĂ„land. From these findings it follows that the traditional view of auditing as merely a control mechanism needs to be complemented by consideration of aspects of the internal value of auditing.
The approaches of SME’s when engaging an audit firm for different types of advisory services is examined in this study based upon survey data. It is shown that the majority of advisory services provided are related to core competencies of an auditor such as tax, accounting and law. Logistic regression results show a positive association between firms purchasing advisory services and the length of the relationship with the provider as well as with the respondent’s perception of the audit quality. The latter association further confirms the close connection between audit and advisory services. It should be noted that when an audit firm recommends advisory services their use is significantly higher. There is also support for the demand for advisory services being positively related to firms that are corporate subsidiaries and located in SmĂ„land and Norrland, but negatively associated with the respondent’s level of education. It follows that factors related to demand for advisory services on an aggregate level could be categorized as being dependent on firm characteristics, audit firm characteristics and the relationship between the parties.
Provision of non-audit services (NAS), such as different types of advisory services, to audit clients and the potential consequences for auditor independence and audit quality have been discussed in public debates and research as well as being subject of regulation. OLS regression results show that reporting quality is higher when the audit firm provides advisory services as well as preparing accounts. These findings hold for both discretionary accruals and a respondent’s perception of reporting quality. The provision of NAS improves the reporting quality due to better knowledge of the client and its operations. From the perspective of reporting quality this finding implies that there is no necessity to further restrict the possibility for an audit firm to provide advisory services as well as preparing accounts for audit clients.

Management control systems in entrepreneurial organisations : a balancing challenge
Författare: Eva LövstÄl
Organisation: Internationella Handelshögskolan i Jönköping
Disputationsdatum: 7 mars 2008

This thesis deals with management control systems in entrepreneurial organisations. It particularly pays attention to medium-sized growing companies, since they are argued to be in an interesting situation of overall tensional requirements. At the same time as there is a need for continued entrepreneurship, a more formalised and impersonal management is asked for. It is further suggested that the use of formal management control systems – such as budgeting and reporting systems, performance measurement systems, and project costing systems – involves an exceptional delicate issue for this group of companies and their managers.
The empirical study is based on two ‘good examples’, Soft Tel and Family Tech. Both these companies are described as medium-sized and growing. They are further defined as entrepreneurial, in the sense of being able and willing to pursue opportunities and to introduce them on the market. Several interviews were made with managers in these two companies, asking for their use of management control systems and motives for using – and not using – them. The empirical material is analysed and interpreted in accordance with a balancing framework, developed in the reference chapter. This framework is based on management conceptions found in corporate entrepreneurship literature, and consists of a number of management control tensions.
An overall conclusion from the study is that it is possible and fruitful to approach the use of management control systems as a balancing between opposing elements, e.g. between formality and informality. It helps us understand how and why management control systems are used. Regarding the companies in question, the study shows that they differ in their managers’ way of using and reasoning about management control systems in relation to planning, decision-making and organisational control. The managers also balance between somewhat different opposing elements. It is suggested that these observations can be understood if considering that the companies are different in respect of (a) their growth situation and (b) how entrepreneurship is approached and organised. The study further shows that tensions are dealt with in various ways; a variety which is reflected in the notions of a dilemma, tradeoff, duality, and a paradox. Lastly, it is suggested that there is little evidence of a special ‘entrepreneurial’ use of management control systems in the two companies.

On the Importance of Accounting Information for Stock Market Efficiency
Författare: Jiri Novak
Organisation: Uppsala universitet
Disputationsdatum: 8 februari 2008

This thesis contributes to the discussion on the importance of accounting information for stock market efficiency. As any analysis of market efficiency depends on the use of adequate risk proxies, the thesis first investigates the ability of commonly used risk factors to explain the cross-sectional variation of Swedish stock returns. The findings suggest that capturing risk is indeed very complicated, as neither CAPM beta nor size and book-to-market equity ratio are significantly associated with realized monthly returns. The relative bid-ask spread is found to be the strongest of all the analyzed factors; nevertheless it does not seem to be related to momentum in the manner predicted in the conceptual argument presented earlier in the paper.
Second, the thesis documents that simple accounting summary measures, such as earnings and book value of equity, can be used as benchmarks for the identification of mispriced stocks. Contrarian investment strategies (CISs) based on these simple measures earn a substantial value premium of 11-14%. In addition, we find that their effectiveness is compromised by noise that is caused by transitory earnings and accounting conservatism. Controlling for these factors increases the magnitude of the value premium and improves the consistency of the CIS. This suggests that the information reflected in key accounting measures is not fully reflected in stock prices.
Finally, this thesis shows that the structure of accounting information matters too. It documents that the transition from the Swedish GAAP to IFRS in 2005 not only changed the average goodwill charges reported by companies, but also affected valuation of goodwill-intensive companies. This suggests that investors were not able to see through the conservative treatment of goodwill prior to the adoption of IFRS and that they recognized its higher persistence only after being provided with accounting information directly highlighting it.
It is sometimes suggested that the structure of financial reporting “per se” should not be relevant to the valuation of companies, because the presentation itself does not the affect expected operating performance and because investors and analysts can “see through” and properly discount for various reporting formats. This thesis concludes that, contrary to this proposition, the structure of accounting does matter for equity valuation and that changes in representation do impact on stock prices.


Characteristics of internal control amelioration
Författare: Peter Franck
Organisation: Handelshögskolan vid UmeÄ universitet
Datum: 2009

Revision ur ett revisorsperspektiv: en metodstudie
Författare: Anna-Maria Jansson
Organisation: Mittuniversitetet
Datum: 16 maj 2008

Occupational fraud : auditors’ perceptions of red flags and internal control
Författare: Jesper Fagerberg
Organisation: Linköpings universitet
Datum: 2008

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