Abigail McIntosh Allen
Lecturer of Business Administration
Abigail Allen is a lecturer of business administration in the Accounting & Management unit at Harvard Business School. Her dissertation research focused on the financial accounting standard setting process. Specifically, her research investigates the impacts of regulator backgrounds, constituent preferences, and lobbying incentives in the FASB’s agenda decisions and the final determination of US GAAP. Professor Allen’s work is forthcoming in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, and it has been cited and discussed in Forbes Magazine and the Harvard Business Review. Her other research interests include the economic consequences of accounting regulation, globalization of accounting standards, fair value accounting, revenue recognition, voluntary disclosure, and sustainability reporting.
Professor Allen graduated with her D.B.A in Accounting and Management from Harvard Business School and also holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in Accounting from University of Southern California. Prior to obtaining her doctorate, Professor Allen worked for Deloitte and Touche as an external auditor in Silicon Valley where she became licensed as a CPA.
Professor Allen is the proud mother of 2 children born during her doctoral studies (Alec Allen 1/25/2011 and Elise Allen 3/23/2013). In her free time, she enjoys tennis, snowboarding, scuba and chess.
The Auditing Oligopoly and Lobbying on Accounting Standards
We examine how the tightening of the U.S. auditing oligopoly over the last twenty-five years—from the Big 8 to the Big 6, the Big 5, and, then, the Big 4—has affected the incentives of the Big N, as manifest in their lobbying preferences on accounting standards. We find, as the oligopoly has tightened, Big N auditors are more likely to express concerns about decreased "reliability" in FASB-proposed accounting standards (relative to an independent benchmark); this finding is robust to controls for various alternative explanations. The results are consistent with the Big N auditors facing greater political and litigation costs attributable to their increased visibility from tightening oligopoly and with decreased competitive pressure among the Big N to satisfy client preferences (who, relative to auditors, favor accounting flexibility over reliability). The results are inconsistent with the claim that the Big N increasingly consider themselves "too big to fail" as the audit oligopoly tightens.