The Brown Center invites you to our Faculty Spotlight on Wednesday, March 10th at 12:00 PM on Blackboard Ultra. The spotlight series is a showcase of research, creative inquiry, and other scholarly engagement of the campus community. Stop by and learn about the research of our talented Stetson community! 

Dr. Erin Nickell – Assistant Professor of Accounting

Department of Accounting

Star Quality: An Exploration of a Star-Rating System for Individual Audit Partner Quality and the Potential Impact to Investor Decision Making

Investors have long expressed dissatisfaction with the level of publicly-available information characterizing the external audit. In response, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) now requires audit firms to disclose the identity of the lead engagement partner responsible for the audit of all publicly-traded companies. Audit practitioners have expressed concern that disclosing the partner’s identity places an inappropriate emphasis on the role of the audit partner and may have unintended consequences. A specific concern involves the aggregation of information about individual audit partners and the possibility that it be used to construct a star-rating system, disseminated and utilized by market participants. Drawing on source credibility theory, our study experimentally investigates whether such a rating might hypothetically influence the judgment and decision-making processes of investors. Consistent with predictions, we find that investors are more likely to avoid investing in a company audited by a partner with a low relative rating—even when the company outperforms competing investment choices. We also find that they are more likely to seek investment in a company audited by a partner with a high relative rating—even when the company underperforms competing investment choices. We predict effects for audit partner industry expertise similar to those for audit partner quality but, contrary to prior literature, do not find evidence to support either of these positions.

Erin Nickell, PhD, CPA is an Assistant Professor of accounting in the M.E. Rinker, Sr. Institute for Tax and Accountancy; with the School of Business Administration. Dr. Nickell is a licensed CPA with professional experience as an external auditor and academic experience teaching and researching issues related to forensic accounting and fraudulent financial reporting.