Accountants on the UK boards of directors and the market for accountancy and audit services
Several previous studies have provided empirical evidence concerning the pricing of audit services among different accountancy firms. These studies have examined the form of the auditor fee function by generally performing cross-sectional regressions of audit fees on a set of explanatory variables. This study is the first to investigate whether an "alumni effect" prevails the UK audit market and whether any "alumni effect" influences the pricing of audit services. The "alumni effect" has been defined in this study as the association between the auditor of the company where the director/chartered accountant is currently employed and the accounting firm that the director/chartered accountant originally qualified with, as a chartered accountant. The study has constructed an alumni network by matching the current director of the UK public company with the accountancy firm s/he qualified with as chartered accountant. By doing this, the "alumni effect" variable has been created which is a non-price factor conjectured to translate into price effects. The study provides a theoretical analysis and explanation of the "alumni effect" by combining several theories in microeconomics, organisational behaviour and socialisation of accountants. Using chi-square tests it provides evidence that an "alumni effect" does prevail the UK audit market for publicly traded companies. A classical regression model was constructed for the functional relationship between external audit fee and independent variables measuring the "alumni effect" and audit firm size. Other factors such as client size and complexity, client risk to fail, etc. are controlled for in the cross-sectional models. The findings show that the "alumni effect" leads to higher audit fees when a finance director, chairman or/and chief executive is/are alumni of the incumbent auditor in the large companies segment of the audit market. The findings also indicate that when the audit firm size is partitioned into three classes then a price premium is revealed.