The effect of alternative fraud model use on auditors’ fraud risk judgments

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This study evaluates how the use of alternative fraud model practice aids affects external auditors’ fraud risk judgments. The extant fraud literature, including professional audit standards, focuses almost exclusively on the fraud triangle model (Cressey, 1973) and its components (i.e., pressure, opportunity, and rationalization) to explain the occurrence of fraud. However, the fraud triangle has not been tested empirically relative to other proposed fraud models designed to address the triangle’s limitations. For example, Wolfe and Hermanson (2004) proposed a fraud diamond model that adds individual “capability” to the fraud triangle as a fourth component reflecting the personal skills and attributes needed to recognize and act on fraud opportunities in an organization. A sample of 89 auditors in public accounting participated in a 2 × 2 experiment with fraud model practice aid type (fraud triangle or fraud diamond) and CEO risk level (low or high) manipulated randomly between subjects in a fraud risk assessment task. The results indicate a significant fraud model type effect, with auditors evaluating fraud risk factors based on a fraud diamond practice aid providing significantly higher (more conservative) fraud risk assessments than auditors evaluating fraud risk factors based on a fraud triangle practice aid. Subsequent factor analysis provides initial support for a revised fraud triangle that includes pressure, opportunity, and a broader capability dimension (that includes rationalization/attitude) as the three formative components.