Mandatory Partner Rotation and Audit Quality: Evidence from U.S. Audit Firm Archival Data

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Christensen, Brant E
Audit quality; audit partner rotation
thesis / dissertation description
Although mandatory partner rotation has existed in the U.S. in some form since the 1970s, insufficient U.S. partner-specific data has limited researchers? ability to examine the costs and benefits of mandatory U.S. partner rotation in the current audit environment. Using proprietary data from a large international audit firm, I investigate the effect of mandatory lead partner rotation in the U.S. on three proxies for audit quality: audit fees, identifying and reporting a material control weakness, and providing a modified audit opinion. Controlling for client- and audit-specific characteristics, I provide evidence that mandatory rotation of the lead engagement partner increases audit quality in the year of rotation among larger audit offices only; audit quality is lower in the year of mandatory lead partner rotation in smaller offices. Further, rotation increases audit quality when the incoming lead engagement partner has the requisite industry expertise, but decreases audit quality when the lead partner lacks such expertise. Additional analyses show that mandatory concurring partner rotation has a similar, albeit weaker effect on audit quality. My results are robust to various proxies for audit quality, time periods, and model specifications. These findings provide evidence on the costs and benefits of partner rotation and informs practitioners, academics, and regulators as to the consequences of mandatory partner rotation in the U.S.