Questioning the Big 4 audit quality assumption: new evidence from Malaysia

Tyrone M. Carlin, Nigel Finch, Nur Hidayah Laili

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Audit quality can be defined as relating to the probability that financial statements contain no material omissions or misstatements. Previous research on the subject of audit quality relies on the assumption that large audit firms (Big 4) are homogenous in providing higher audit quality than small audit firms (non-Big 4). However, there is little evidence in extant literature supportive of quality differentials between Big 4 firms, except that the collapse of Arthur Anderson certainly undermines this assertion that large auditors are associated with higher audit quality. In this study, we develop a methodology to distinguish audit quality among Big 4 audit firms and attempt to question the homogenous audit quality assumption. In exploring this theme, this paper examines the audited disclosures made during the transition period under Financial Reporting Standards 136 - Impairment of Assets (the Malaysian equivalent to IAS 36) of a sample of large Malaysian listed corporations, each of whom have engaged Big 4 auditors. The results of this study are alarming, finding systemic failure on the part of Big 4 auditors in Malaysia to comply with even the most basic elements of the FRS 136 disclosure framework in relation to goodwill impairment testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-56
Number of pages22
JournalThe ICFAI journal of audit practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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