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From peer review to PCAOB inspections: regulating for audit quality in the U.S

Lukas Löhlein

LSE Research Online Documents on Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library

Abstract: This study reviews the existing literature on the U.S. peer review system and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) inspection system to assess our knowledge of audit regulation. The traditional self-regulatory system of the accounting profession came to an end, in 2002, when the PCAOB was established to oversee the audit firms of publicly traded companies. This paper contributes to the controversial debate about self-regulation versus independent regulation by analyzing, categorizing, and comparing the research findings on the peer review system and the PCAOB system along three dimensions: the validity of peer reviews and PCAOB inspections, the recognition of reviews and inspections by decision-makers (e.g., investors, bankers, committees), and the effect of reviews and inspections on audit quality. Synthesizing the research on the regulatory regimes suggests that the notion of external quality control, both through peer reviews and government inspections, is positively linked with an improvement of audit quality. At the same time, the analysis indicates that external users do not seem to recognise peer review and PCAOB reports as very useful instruments for decision-making, which is in line with an identified rather skeptical perception of the audit profession on reviews and inspections. Overall, this study reveals that although the academic literature on peer review and PCAOB inspection is extensive it has not produced definitive conclusions concerning various aspects of audit regulation. This paper shows how this blurred picture is due to conflicting research findings, the dominance of the quantitative research paradigm, and unchallenged assumptions within the literature, and concludes by proposing research opportunities for the future.

Keywords: public company accounting oversight board (PCAOB); inspection; peer review; quality assurance; self-regulation; accounting history; American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: M40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016-06-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-acc
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Published in Journal of Accounting Literature, 2, June, 2016, 36, pp. 28-47. ISSN: 0737-4607

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