Can Audit (still) be Trusted?

Frank Mueller, Chris Carter, Andrea Whittle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper analyses audit as an exemplar of an expert system. The paper explores the premise that systemic trust in audit has been damaged and requires repair, looking specifically at the role of the institutionalised mechanism of the public inquiry. This is examined empirically in relation to the interaction between the Heads of the Big Four accounting firms in the UK and the House of Lords Economic Select Committee in the course of the recent parliamentary investigation into the UK Audit market, prompted by the global financial crisis. In particular, the paper seeks to understand how there can be transfer of trust, following Sztompka (1999), between different levels and between agents in a system. In this case, the Big Four - as privileged market participants - require re-legitimation from agents that are part of the political and legal apparatus. We therefore argue that re-legitimation of the Big Four’s privileged market position is dependent on transfer of trust.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1203
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number9
Early online date9 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


  • trust
  • accountability
  • audit
  • expert systems
  • Big Four
  • financial crisis
  • transfer of trust


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