18th Symposium on Audit Research

By Melissa Silverberg

Top auditing scholars from around the country came to Champaign to attend the 18th Symposium on Audit Research, sponsored by KPMG LLP, Oct. 2-4, 2008.

The symposium takes place every two years and is hosted by the University’s Department of Accountancy. More than 100 auditing academics and professionals from large auditing firms, the Center for Audit Quality, and the University’s accounting faculty attended the symposium.

The department invited scholars from all over the world to submit papers for the conference. Authors were invited to present  the best papers and gather to discuss their research at the symposium, said Mark Peecher, professor of accountancy, Deloitte Teaching Fellow and director of the department’s Ph.D. program.

This year, the symposium featured a panel discussion on the sustainability of public company auditing in the 21st century. Symposium organizers believe it is an important topic as auditors are dealing with much uncertainty in a constantly changing environment.

“It was a very positively received event,” Peecher said. “The quality of the papers and discussion that you get at an event like this is great. It was all very successful.”

Peecher called the event a feather in the University’s and the department’s cap and a source of pride for both.

“It’s probably the most highly regarded academic auditing symposium,” he said. “It is very consistent with our long standing tradition of excellence in accounting at ILLINOIS and researchers know that we are a place they can come to talk about the future of auditing.”

The symposium also featured a discussion about providing high quality auditing research in the face of an industry challenge, gathering new data, Peecher said. Margot Cella, senior technical manager for policy and research for the Center for Audit Quality [http://www.thecaq.org/] was a member of the panel discussion.

“The purpose of this session was to help brainstorm research questions that could be pursued if we had access to high quality data,” Peecher said, noting that the reason the level of data is not yet available is partly due to confidentiality constraints.

Some of the variables discussed that would be helpful to academic audit researchers would be specific to the audit client such as company size, revenue, governance and other such details, Cella said.

“The discussion I led over lunch was an exploratory effort to get a sense of what kinds of research audit academics would do if that data were available to them,” Cella said. “But that database does not exist yet, we are still in the process of determining whether it is possible to even develop such a database.”

Cella, Peecher and other attendees said the symposium was a successful culmination of academia and the professional auditing world, with both sides learning about and discussing the issues facing their industry today.

“I came away with better insight into the types of research folks in the academic audit arena are focusing on,” Cella said. “There were some very interesting discussions; I really got a lot out of it.”