This study examines the perceived ability of auditees to influence external auditor controls and audit team behaviour (through, for example, delaying the availability of information and selecting samples in advance for auditors). Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 18 auditee staff from seven publicly-listed companies who interacted on an ongoing basis with the audit team. The findings provide an external perspective on weaknesses in auditors' control systems and suggest that game playing occurs between auditee and auditor staff in coping with conflicts that arise during audit fieldwork. These constitute a form of inter-organisational defence mechanism (coping mechanisms employed by individuals in organisations to avoid embarrassment and threat). Furthermore, the findings reveal previously unidentified auditee-related variables that can impact on the effectiveness of the auditor's control system. A number of implications of the findings for audit firms and society are identified, such as the level of trust placed by society in inexperienced time-pressured audit trainees, societal expectations of auditors and the need to reduce the predictability of audit testing.