Boundary spanning and gatekeeping roles of UK audit committees

Vivien Beattie, Stella Fearnley, Tony Hines

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    Post-financial crisis, audit committee (AC) reforms are proposed to improve the quality of financial reporting. This paper's empirical contribution is to investigate the extent to which ACs and audit committee chairs (ACCs) engage with chief financial officers (CFOs) and audit partners (APs) across a range of 32 financial reporting issues. It is the first large-scale survey of interactions to move beyond the micro-CFO/AP dyad and to distinguish the individual ACC from the AC group. While 37% of the 5445 reported discussions involve all three key individuals together with the full AC, 35% involve neither the AC nor the ACC and the ACC acts without the full AC in a significant minority of cases. The parties reported to be involved are similar across the three respondent groups but vary with financial reporting issue, company size and audit firm size. The paper's theoretical contribution is to interpret the evidence using the concepts of boundary spanning and gatekeeping roles. The research reveals incomplete levels of AC and ACC engagement with financial reporting issues. Findings have implications for policy-makers regarding the role, influence and effectiveness of the AC in financial reporting matters. Directions for future research are identified.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-343
    JournalAccounting and Business Research
    Issue number3
    Early online date19 May 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • auditor–client interaction
    • audit committee
    • boundary spanning
    • corporate governance
    • discussion
    • negotiation


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