Purpose - Auditing may be viewed as an arrangement for reducing inefficiencies arising from the fundamental market conflict between a seller who wants as high a price as possible and a buyer who wants to pay as low a price as possible. In more general terms, sellers prefer policies that boost the stock price in the short run whereas buyers would prefer the price to peak when they are ready to sell some time in the future. By framing audited financial reports within this context, the purpose of this paper is to provide some insights regarding both audit institutions and audit regulation. Design/methodology/approach - This paper relies on conceptual arguments and a simple analytical model. Findings - The basic findings are that a unique definition of audit quality is not compatible with the economics of a market where there are conflicts across traders as well a possibility that some traders hold superior information to others. Even an identification of quality with accuracy fails in this setting of conflict. The inference is that audit quality should be approached from a multi-dimensional perspective rather than a unique measure. Research limitations/implications - While the paper points out difficulties in constructing measures of audit quality extant in the literature, it does not provide any clear empirical suggestions for better measures. Originality/value - The paper brings back into focus issues from information economics that form the bedrock for the study of audited financial statements in equity markets. While the paper is partially a survey and synthesis of some of the latest empirical findings, it describes them within the context of a rational economic market where traders may possess private information. Within such a market, the paper outlines both the conflicts and the benefits inherent to the current institutional arrangements where auditors are paid by incumbent shareholders and overseen by regulators.
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