Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 150, Issue 4, pp 1187–1198 | Cite as

Busy Auditors, Ethical Behavior, and Discretionary Accruals Quality in Malaysia

  • Karen M. Y. Lai
  • Andriyawan Sasmita
  • Ferdinand A. Gul
  • Yee Boon Foo
  • Marion Hutchinson


The required professional and ethical pronouncements of accountants mean that auditors need to be competent and exercise due care and skill in the performance of their audits. In this study, we examine what happens when auditors take on more clients than they should, thus raising doubts about their ability to maintain competence and audit quality. Using 2803 observations of Malaysian companies from 2010 to 2013, we find that auditors with multiple clients are associated with lower earnings quality, proxied by total accruals and discretionary accruals. Our results demonstrate that associating client firms’ reported discretionary accruals with individual auditors, rather than their firms or offices, is important in determining audit quality. Moreover, we demonstrate that the disclosure of auditors’ signatures on their reports is useful for assessing auditor quality at the individual level, thus contributing to the debate on the usefulness of having auditor identities on reports.


Multiple audit clients Ethical behavior Discretionary accruals Audit quality 



We acknowledge and are grateful for the support of BDO Malaysia in conducting this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen M. Y. Lai
    • 1
  • Andriyawan Sasmita
    • 2
  • Ferdinand A. Gul
    • 2
  • Yee Boon Foo
    • 3
  • Marion Hutchinson
    • 4
  1. 1.Monash Business SchoolMonash UniversityCaulfield EastAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Accounting, Faculty of Business and LawDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  3. 3.School of BusinessMonash UniversityBandar SunwayMalaysia
  4. 4.QUT Business SchoolQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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