Williams Receives Outstanding Auditing Dissertation Award

“In our line of work, rarely do you hear ‘Good job,’” said Accountancy Assistant Professor Devin Williams. “At best, you get a ‘revise and resubmit’ from an academic journal.”Devin Williams

But, occasionally, professors do receive positive recognition and feedback for hard work and research efforts. For Williams, this recognition came in the form of being named the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Auditing Dissertation Award from the American Accounting Association in January.

The award recognizes those works that make the most outstanding contribution to auditing knowledge among those dissertations nominated for consideration. The award is presented to the author and the chair of the author’s dissertation committee.

“It was a huge honor,” said Williams. “I join a very prestigious and elite group of researchers who had success early on with this award.”

His dissertation, titled “The Effect of Potential Entrants on Audit Market Competition,” examined the effect that firms that have not yet entered a market, but may enter a market (that is, auditing publicly traded companies) can have on the pricing and quality of audit firms that already exist within that market. What impact do these (typically smaller) firms that register with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCOAB) have on the market dominated by firms specializing in public companies? (Registration with PCOAB is a requirement to audit public companies.) In his dissertation Williams reveals that, even if the smaller firms don’t actually begin auditing public companies, the fact that they registered does affect audit costs and audit quality of their similarly sized counterparts within a particular metropolitan area.

“In locations that have a higher proportion of these firms that are registered but don’t have  public clients, the audit fees of the public company auditors go down, and their quality goes up, which means that they are coming closer to a competitive equilibrium,” Williams explained.

Williams said that a lot of the success he had with his dissertation and research stems from the support he received from his dissertation director, Robert Knechel at Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida, where Williams did his PhD work. “He trained me to research questions you’re interested in and passionate about,” Williams said. “And audit markets have always fascinated me.”

Now that he is at Illinois, Williams plans to continue examining these smaller audit firms registered with PCOAB. One of his current projects examines how these companies eventually acquire public clients up to five years after registering with the PCOAB. “We want to know, what kind of auditors can enter this market successfully, and what kind of clients are willing to take a risk with these first-time auditors,” he said.

Williams started in the Department of Accountancy in January 2017, and his teaching has already made an impact on students. He was included in the “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students” his very first semester of teaching. He received this recognition for ACCY 515: Auditing and Assurance Standards, the course he is also teaching this Spring 2018 semester.

“I love teaching,” Williams said. “It’s a highlight of my day when I can go and interact with students. Good teaching helps to create good research, and good research helps to create good teaching. I love that they are both part of my job.”

In addition to this dissertation award, Williams was named a Deloitte Foundation Doctoral Fellow in 2015, an AAA/Deloitte/J. Michael Cook Doctoral Consortium Fellow in 2013, and an AICPA Accounting Doctoral Scholar for the years 2011-2015.