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Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 37, Issue 1, Spring 2018

Jim Peterson
Pages 45-66
DOI: 10.5840/bpej201822868

Auditor Independence
Does the Gate-Keeper Function Retain Its Value?

The concept of “auditor independence”—that the provider of assurance on financial information should be free of conflicting interests—is deeply embedded in the world’s capital markets. This paper examines stresses on the global model of Big Audit that call into question both the basis and the ongoing usefulness of auditor independence: The threats to the stability of the model, based on the dominance of the Big Four international accounting networks in providing audit services to the world’s large public companies. The balance between benefits and detriments of the independence requirements, and standards that are difficult to articulate and enforce. The implications for the continued value of independent assurance emerging from the evolution in Big Data tools and analytics, including the structural constraints of regulation. A broad re-examination is called for, in aide of the design of a sustainable public-company assurance model that is fit for purpose in the twenty-first century.