The Organizational Response to the Discovery of False Sign-Off

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Financial statement audit quality is directly threatened when auditors sign off audit steps without performing the required work. This behavior, known as false sign-off, has received attention in the academic literature for over 30 years. Most prior false sign-off research has focused on trying to understand why and how much false sign-off occurs from the perspective of the auditors who engage in the behavior. Some recent research based on experiments and semi-structured interviews has investigated the organizational response to the discovery of false sign-off, finding that one reason the behavior may occur is that it is not sufficiently discouraged when it is discovered. The current study uses a widely distributed survey to ask auditors about their discovery of and response to actual instances of false sign-off. The survey explores the types and frequency of discovered false sign-off, the actions actually taken by auditors when it is discovered, the factors that influenced the auditors' chosen course of action and the ultimate organizational response to the cases that are reported.