Do Management Training Grounds Reduce Internal Auditor Objectivity and External Auditor Reliance? The Influence of Family Firms

Journal of Business Ethics 173 (1):205-227 (2020)
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Abstract

We test competing theoretical perspectives of family firm governance in two separate studies by investigating whether family firm control moderates the detrimental effect of a management training ground on internal auditor objectivity and on the external auditor’s decision to rely on the internal audit function. In Study 1, we assess the objectivity of internal auditors working under an IAF that serves as a MTG or non-MTG and located in a family or non-family firm. A key result of Study 1 is the mitigating role of family firm control, as we find that the objectivity of internal auditors is reduced when the IAF serves as a MTG but only in non-family firms. When the IAF is located in a family-controlled firm, the objectivity of internal auditors is unaffected by the opportunity to be promoted into management positions outside of the IAF. In Study 2, we utilize a controlled laboratory experiment with experienced Big 4 auditors as participants and examine their decision to rely on an IAF when it serves as a MTG. Our analyses indicate that external auditors reduce their reliance on non-family firm IAFs that are also MTGs and their decision is fully mediated by the perceived objectivity of non-family firm internal auditors. In contrast, external auditors’ reliance on family firm IAFs and their perceptions of internal auditor objectivity are unaffected under a MTG regime. The results of Studies 1 and 2 provide support for the alignment perspective of family firms.

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