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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    An Intertemporal Analysis of Audit Fees and Section 404...
    research summary posted November 17, 2014 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 07.0 Internal Control, 07.05 Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    An Intertemporal Analysis of Audit Fees and Section 404 Material Weaknesses
    Practical Implications:

    The findings suggest that audit fees respond to audit risk changes in the post-SOX environment, however this response is not immediate. These findings have important practical implications for audit regulators and for practicing auditors. These findings imply that audit firms are slow to reduce audit fees in the wake of remediation, which may be due to the documentation requirements imposed by PCAOB Auditing Standard No. 2 (“AS 2”). Notably, the PCAOB issued Auditing Standard No. 5 (“AS 5”) to supersede AS 2 in 2007 in an effort to improve implementation of the internal control requirements. In particular, AS 5 provided refinements to AS 2 meant to make the audit more scalable to a particular client and their corresponding risks. The findings presented in this study could be used as a baseline for evaluating whether AS 5 increased the responsiveness between audit fees and the underlying client risks. Audit practitioners must balance engagement risk management with public perceptions in order to maintain their reputations in the market for audit services. The findings presented here imply that audit fees are the most persistent in the presence of more severe material internal control weaknesses, consistent with predictions extending from the audit risk model.

    For more information on this study, please contact Matthew Hoag.

    Citation:

    Hoag, M. L. and C. W. Hollingsworth. 2011. An intertemporal analysis of audit fees and section 404 material weaknesses. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 30 (2): 173-200

    Keywords:
    SOX Section 404, internal control opinion, remediation of a material weakness, audit fees
    Purpose of the Study:

    In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”) was passed, which dramatically changed the financial reporting landscape following a wave of high-profile corporate frauds. Section 404 of SOX was perhaps the most significant reform, requiring that company management report on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting (404a), and requiring that the company’s external auditor complete a comprehensive evaluation of the internal controls and render an opinion on their effectiveness (404b). The mandated evaluation(s) of internal controls come at a significant cost to filers, as the initial evidence evaluated post-SOX pointed to a significant increase in audit fees for those companies subject to the provisions of SOX 404. These findings fueled criticism of Section 404 by opponents who argue the costs imposed an overwhelming burden on companies.

    This study investigates the impact of Section 404 on audit fees beyond the initial years of implementation. Specifically, it entails a longitudinal empirical examination of audit fees post-SOX within the theoretical context of the audit risk model. Audit fees should reflect both audit risk and audit effort. Using information provided through the newly mandated internal control opinions, this study tests how audit fees respond following either (1) the remediation of or (2) the failure to remediate internal control weaknesses by a company. The findings presented in this study should be of interest to audit industry regulators, academics performing audit fee research post-SOX, and to audit practitioners.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The sample is comprised from the population of accelerated filers subject to the provisions of SOX Section 404 spanning 2004 through 2007. The final sample consists of more than 13,500 company-year observations obtained from the Audit Analytics and Compustat databases with non-missing data necessary to perform the hypotheses tests. These tests employ OLS regression using a traditional audit fee model commonly used in audit pricing research and the test variables for varying types of Section 404 internal control opinions.

    Findings:
    • Using a levels model, audit fees are found to be consistently and significantly higher both in the presence of a material weakness in internal control and for companies that remediate a previous material weakness.
    • In a changes model, the findings suggest that audit fees decline significantly in each of the first two years after the remediation of a material weakness. Thus, the remediation of a material weakness leads to lower audit fees, but the corresponding decline does not occur immediately.
    • Three years after remediating a material weakness in internal control, a company still pays a 19 percent audit fee premium as compared to a company that never reported a material weakness. However, this premium does not differ significantly from the premium paid by these same companies in the year prior to the implementation of SOX 404, suggesting that auditors recognized these companies entailed heightened audit risk even prior to performing the internal control evaluation.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Internal Control
    Sub-category:
    Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions, Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Fees after Remediation of Internal Control Weaknesses
    research summary posted June 22, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 07.04 Assessing Remediation of Weaknesses, 07.05 Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    Audit Fees after Remediation of Internal Control Weaknesses
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for companies and regulators that are trying to understand the true costs for firms with an adverse report on internal control. It further informs the continuing debate regarding Section 404 of SOX and provides some evidence that these premiums can be as high as 30 (20) percent in the first(second) year after remediation when compared to firms that only have clean Section 404 reports. Lastly, this provides opportunities for future research investigating how long it takes audit fees to return the level of companies that only receive clean opinions and whether or not this premium relates to additional audit work or a risk premium.

    Citation:

    Munsif, V., K. Raghunandan, D. V. Rama, and M. Singhvi. 2011. Audit Fees after Remediation of Internal Control Weaknesses.  Accounting Horizons 25 (1):  87-105. 

    Keywords:
    internal controls; audit fees; material weakness; remediation
    Purpose of the Study:

    Firms that receive an adverse report on internal control under Section 404 of SOX typically experience significant costs, such as a higher cost of capital. Additionally, these companies reporting material weaknesses also tend pay higher audit fees which is consistent with the belief that ineffective internal controls leads to a higher propensity for misstatements. Conversely, it is logical to expect that these higher fees will return to normalized levels if the weakness is remediated; however, recent evidence in regards to control problems disclosed pursuant to Section 302 of SOX has been contrary to this belief. This study attempts to provide clarification to these findings and investigates whether audit fees return to previous levels after the remediation of material weaknesses disclosed under Section 404 of SOX. It is important to recognize that in contrast to prior research which examines fees in the year of (or year prior to) remediation, this study examines the audit fees in the years following the remediation  in order to determine if the higher fees that the company pays in year of disclosure remain at a premium even two or three years after remediation.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use data on SEC registrants and collect information on audit fees and Section 404 disclosures for the first four years of internal control reporting (2004-2007). The authors exclude financial sector companies, as well as, foreign firms and compare audit fees over the four year period of analysis for SEC registrants with fiscal year-ends from November 15 through May 31 of the following calendar year. The authors examine audit fees in years subsequent to the remediation of internal control weaknesses in order to determine whether auditors continue to view firms that had ever received an adverse Section 404 opinion as being “tainted,” such that even after remediating the problem, firms continue to pay an audit fee premium.

    Findings:

    The authors find that remediating firms have lower audit fees when compared to firms that continue to report material weaknesses in internal control. However, the remediating firms continue to pay, in the year of remediation as well as one and two years subsequent to remediation, a significant audit fee premium compared to firms that have clean Section 404 reports in each of the first four years of internal control reporting. The authors also show that general weaknesses have a higher effect on audit fees than only account-specific internal control weaknesses.

    Category:
    Internal Control, Accountants' Reporting
    Sub-category:
    Assessing Material Weaknesses, Reporting Material Weaknesses, Assessing Remediation of Weaknesses, Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions
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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Auditor Reporting under Section 404: The Association between...
    research summary posted July 29, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.09 Litigation Risk, 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 07.05 Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    Auditor Reporting under Section 404: The Association between the Internal Control and Going Concern Audit Opinions.
    Practical Implications:

    The uncertainties surrounding material weaknesses, the difficulty of auditing around some types of weaknesses, and the fact that the auditor must explain why it issued a clean report on the financial statements when it had issued a MWO, may cause the auditor to become conservative in its GCO decision, which is fairly ambiguous to start with. The study has particular relevance for policy makers and a need for a broader evaluation of the effects of SOX 404.

    Citation:

    Goh, B. W., Krishnan, J., & Li, D. 2013. Auditor Reporting under Section 404: The Association between the Internal Control and Going Concern Audit Opinions. Contemporary Accounting Research 30 (3): 970-995.

    Keywords:
    internal control, going concern, material weakness, ligation risk, SOX 404
    Purpose of the Study:

    Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) requires companies’ independent auditors to provide an opinion on their clients’ internal control over financial reporting, in addition to the opinion on their clients’ financial. The purpose of Section 404 was primarily to provide information on the internal controls, thus enhancing investor understanding of the quality of firms’ financial reporting. The PCAOB also issued AS2 and AS5, which require an “integrated audit of internal control and financial statements” because the “objectives of and work involved in performing both an attestation of management’s assessment of internal control and an audit of the financial statements are closely interrelated.

    In this paper, the authors explore the association between the two audit opinions by examining whether the issuance of an adverse internal control material weakness opinion (MWO) influences, other things equal, the issuance of a going concern audit opinion (GCO) for financially stressed companies. Although the two opinions are the result of an integrated audit process, they serve different purposes. The GCO reflects the auditor’s view of the financial condition of its client, indicating whether (in the auditor’s opinion) the client will continue to be a going concern for a period of 12 months beyond the financial year end. The MWO reflects the auditor’s opinion on whether there are material weaknesses in internal control and therefore the likelihood that material misstatements in the financial statements will not be detected or prevented. Despite this difference, the two opinions could be connected.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors examine the association between the MWO and the GCO, using a sample of 1,110 financially stressed firms that reported internal control and audit opinions under SOX Section 404. They start with all public firms on COMPUSTAT with year-ends from 2004 to 2009, for which the authors could compute the Altman financial distress Z-score.  

    Findings:
    • The results suggest that the MWO issued under SOX Section 404 does increase the likelihood of a GCO, while the existence of material weaknesses in the Section 302 disclosures does not. Thus, auditors seem to respond to the uncertainties surrounding a material weakness by issuing a GCO only when they have to issue a MWO.
    • Fifty-six percent of the material weaknesses are classified as company-level weaknesses.
    • If an auditor is aware that the client is in the process of remediating the weakness, it is less likely to issue a GCO.
    • Firms with MWOs raise less capital in the subsequent financial year than firms without
      MWOs, providing some evidence that the issuance of a MWO does impair the firm’s ability to raise capital.
    • To examine whether it is the material weakness opinion rather than the presence of the material weakness that drives auditor behavior, the authors examine whether Section 302 material weakness disclosures are similarly associated with the GCO, but find no association.
    • Heightened concerns about litigation may be driving auditors to issue the GCO when they also issue a MWO.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Internal Control, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions, Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, Litigation Risk, Reporting Material Weaknesses
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Early Warnings of Internal Control Problems: Additional...
    research summary posted May 25, 2014 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.04 Impact of 404, 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    Early Warnings of Internal Control Problems: Additional Evidence
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study raise many interesting questions. The fact that accelerated filers’ adverse internal control opinions continue to be a surprise over 50 percent of the time suggest that auditors continue to find internal control problems that management had not previously identified or had not evaluated as MWs. The results related to non-accelerated filers provide some interesting data related to the ongoing debate about the efficacy of Section 404(b) testing by auditors. The authors also note that examining the early warnings of non-accelerated filers tells us only about what management of these companies report; it does not give us insight into what auditors would report. The results also raise other interesting issues for future research.

    Citation:

    Munsif, V., K. Raghunandan, and D. V. Rama. 2013. Early Warnings of Internal Control Problems: Additional Evidence. Auditing 32 (2).

    Keywords:
    302; 404; internal control; SOX
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study extends the research of Hermanson and Ye (2009; hereafter, HY) that found in the first year of Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) Section 404 reporting, there were many companies with “surprise” adverse internal control reports.  The authors of this study examine a more recent time period (using data from fiscal years 2007 and 2008) and include both accelerated and non-accelerated filers. Motivation for these two extensions of HY comes from the fact that internal control disclosures by public companies and their auditors continue to be of significant interest to legislators and regulators. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Data was obtained from the Audit Analytics and Compustat databases, and from company filings available at the SEC website. This data was used to answer the following two research questions:

    RQ1: What is the proportion of accelerated filers with “surprise” disclosures of material weaknesses in internal control in the fourth and fifth years of Section 404 reporting?

    RQ2: Does the likelihood of “surprise” disclosures of material weaknesses in internal control differ for accelerated and non-accelerated filers?

    To address the research question about characteristics of firms with and without early warning disclosures, following HY, a logistic regression model was used. 

    Findings:
    • The proportions of accelerated filer firms with MW disclosures in their Section 404(b) reports, that had disclosed one or more such MWs in Section 302 certifications in prior quarters of the same fiscal year, are only 40 percent and 39 percent in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
    • In the case of non-accelerated filer firms, the proportions of firms with such early warning disclosures are 20 percent and 56 percent in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
    • A regression model indicates that prior warning disclosures are more likely for firms with (1) more ICWs, (2) a new CFO, (3) more audit committee members, and (4) more frequent audit committee meetings.
    • In 2008, non-accelerated filers were more likely than accelerated filers to have early warning disclosures. 
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Internal Control, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions, Impact of 404, Reporting Material Weaknesses
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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Internal Control Opinion Shopping and Audit Market...
    research summary posted March 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 03.0 Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes, 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    Internal Control Opinion Shopping and Audit Market Competition.
    Practical Implications:

    The study results are important to regulators, practitioners, and academics. The findings show that internal controls opinion shopping appears to occur among firms that have clean internal control opinions prior to a restatement. In addition, clients have the incentive to manipulate the audit process, via internal control opinion shopping, due to the increased focus and oversight on internal controls reporting. Finally, auditor dismissals that occur late in the fiscal period are more likely to be associated with internal control opinion shopping.   

    Citation:

    Newton, N. J., J. S. Persellin, D. Wang, and M. S. Wilkins. 2016. Internal Control Opinion Shopping and Audit Market Competition. The Accounting Review 91 (2): 603623.

    Keywords:
    opinion shopping, internal control weaknesses, audit opinion, audit quality, audit market competition
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study evaluates three research questions related to opinion shopping using the internal controls environment. There have been historical concerns with the presence of audit opinion shopping. However, most studies use going concern opinions in assessing audit clients retention and dismissal behavior. This study expands the opinion shopping environment to internal control reporting. Going concern opinions typically have a low base rate of occurrence and have leading indicators (poor growth, bankruptcy indicators, etc.). Internal control opinions do not have similar indicators that give rise to a warning of an adverse internal control opinion. From this background, the authors investigate: 1) whether internal control opinion shopping exist; 2) how audit market competition influences internal control opinion shopping; and 3) does the timing of an auditor dismissal indicate opinion shopping motivations.  

    This study also provides an avenue to evaluate opinion shopping in the period after the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In addition, it highlights the unintended consequences of increased audit market competition. Finally, it lends support to recent regulatory concern over the decrease in material weakness assessments that may not be the caused by improved internal control environments.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors employ an archival research methodology in this study. Audit opinion and audit client data is from Compustat, Audit Analytics, and the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP). The sample period starts in 2005, the year after the implementation of SOX Section 404, and ends in 2011.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that audit clients are successful at internal control opinion shopping. The results show that clients would have received adverse internal control opinions at a higher rate if they made different auditor retention or dismissal choices.
    • When assessing the type of audit firm changes, the results suggest that opinion shopping may be more prevalent for audit clients that do not need the services of a Big 4 auditor.
    • Using three proxies for audit market concentration, the authors find a higher likelihood of opinion shopping in markets with high concentration.
    • The authors also find that auditor dismissals that occur in the third fiscal quarter are more likely to be associated with opinion shopping compared to auditor dismissals occurring prior to the end of the second quarter, especially in competitive markets.
    • The authors performed supplemental analyses to determine the association between internal control opinion shopping and going concern opinion shopping. They find that internal control opinions are less predictable and therefore more valuable than going concern opinions. They did find evidence of going concern opinion shopping in the pre-SOX period but not in the post-SOX period. This gives rise to the possibility that going concern reporting has a reduced role in auditor retention decisions after the introduction of SOX.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes, Internal Control
    Sub-category:
    Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions, Reporting Material Weaknesses
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Causes and Consequences of Internal Control Problems in...
    research summary posted October 24, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    The Causes and Consequences of Internal Control Problems in Nonprofit Organizations
    Practical Implications:

    This study informs the debate over whether public charities should adopt more rigorous corporate governance practices, particularly in relation to internal control. Recently, policymakers have focused attention on the perceived lack of accountability and transparency by charitable organizations. This increased scrutiny is not necessarily unwarranted due to the recent financial scandals and the size of the nonprofit sector. The evidence provided in this study suggests that the internal control information currently produced by a subset of organizations in the nonprofit sector does affect, either directly or indirectly, both donors’ and government agencies’ funding decisions. Furthermore, the results of this study should also interest nonprofit managers who make decisions about how to allocate scarce resources. Lastly, this study provides insight on how the recently adopted standards SAS No. 112 and SAS No. 115 which provide guidance regarding the communication of internal control matters may influence public perception of nonprofit organizations.

    For more information on this study, please contact Christine Petrovits.
     

    Citation:

    Petrovits, C., C. Shakespeare and A. Shih. 2011. The Causes and Consequences of Internal Control Problems in Nonprofit Organizations.  The Accounting Review 86 (1):  325-357. 

    Keywords:
    internal control; nonprofit organizations; donors; government grants; Sarbanes-Oxley.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The nonprofit sector represents a non-trivial portion of the United States economy. Nonprofit organizations had over $3.4 trillion in assets under their control and charitable giving to these organizations reached an estimated $295 billion, or 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, in 2006. Furthermore, several recent financial scandals have highlighted the significant fiduciary responsibilities of nonprofit managers as well as the relatively weak regulatory oversight of the nonprofit sector. Although internal control audits are not new to the nonprofit sector being that any nonprofit receiving federal funding is subject to review of internal control, the authors utilize this unique setting to investigate the causes of internal control deficiencies and perhaps, more interestingly, the consequences of internal control reporting for these organizations. Specifically, the authors examine the characteristics of public charities that report internal control problems and the effect of such problems on subsequent contributions and government grants received.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors first examine the probability of disclosing an internal control problem as a function of characteristics of the nonprofit organization, such as size, growth and financial distress, using a sample of 27,495 public charities from 1999 to 2007. Next, the authors consider the consequences of disclosure of an internal control problem for nonprofit organizations. Specifically, the authors examine whether the disclosure of an internal control problem is associated with lower contributions, both directly and indirectly, received subsequently from donors which captures the responsiveness of donations to various economic factors. Lastly, the authors investigate the effect of disclosing internal controls deficiencies on subsequent contributions received from local, state, and federal government agencies.

    Findings:
    • The authors find evidence that generally suggests that nonprofit organizations that are more complex, financially distressed, smaller, and/or growing rapidly are more likely to disclose an internal control problem.
    • Additionally, the findings indicate that reportable conditions over financial reporting are negatively associated with future public support. Specifically, organizations that disclose internal control problems over financial reporting receive fewer contributions, both directly and indirectly, from individuals, corporations, and foundations in the subsequent year.
    • Lastly, the authors find negative associations between reportable conditions over both financial reporting and federal program compliance and subsequent government contributions, after controlling for prior-year government contributions and political and economic determinants of governmental funding allocations.

    The authors suggest their results are generalizable to the for-profit sector because they provide long-term evidence that stakeholders do indeed use internal control information to evaluate organizations. Furthermore the authors suggest the nonprofit managers should understand these internal control risks as they estimate that, all else equal, organizations with internal control problems receive 3.8 percent less public support and 2.1 percent less government support.
       
     

    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Internal Control
    Sub-category:
    Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions, Reporting Material Weaknesses
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Effect of Auditing Standard No. 5 on Audit Report Lags.
    research summary posted September 21, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 01.0 Standard Setting, 01.02 Changes in Audit Standards, 01.04 Impact of 404, 01.05 Impact of SOX, 01.06 Impact of PCAOB, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
    Title:
    The Effect of Auditing Standard No. 5 on Audit Report Lags.
    Practical Implications:

    The findings support the regulators’ contention that the new top-down, risk-based approach under AS5 makes the audit process timelier and efficient by decreasing audit report lags and facilitating firms’ efforts to meet the reporting deadline set by the SEC, especially when the firms have an effective internal control system. However, the firms with material internal control problems that persist either at the company level or at the accounts/transaction level continue to experience larger reporting lags in the post-AS5 years compared with the clean SOX 404 firms. The results are generally consistent with auditors focusing more on critical risk areas associated with ineffective internal controls and applying principle-oriented top-down, risk-based audit procedures to minimize risk, which requires increased audit efforts and longer audit time to accomplish their work properly.

    Citation:

    Mitra, S., H. Song, and J. S. Yang. 2015. The Effect of Auditing Standard No. 5 on Audit Report Lags. Accounting Horizons 29 (3): 507-527.

    Keywords:
    AS5, audit report lags, PCAOB, SOX 404
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study investigates whether the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s (PCAOB) Auditing Standard No. 5 (AS5), which was introduced in June 2007, makes the audit process timelier in an extended post-AS5 period from 2007 to 2011 relative to a pre-AS5 period of 20062007. For this, the authors focus on evaluating the AS5 effect on audit report lags (ARL) both for the firms with material internal control weaknesses (ICW) and the firms with a clean SOX 404 opinion (non-ICW). ARL, a proxy for audit effort, has long been an important topic of academic research because ARL is considered critical in influencing timely judgment and decision making by financial statement users.

    First, the authors investigate the impact of the change from AS2 to AS5 on audit report lags over an extended period from 2006 to 2011. Second, they compare the effect of AS5 on report lags separately for the large accelerated filers and accelerated filers given significant differences in the 10-K filing deadlines for these two types of filers. Third, they examine the impact of AS5 on audit report lags for firms with internal control weaknesses (ICW) with separate analyses for firms with company-level control weaknesses and for firms with account-specific control weaknesses.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The analyses are conducted for the period from 2006 to 2011, which covers the AS2 period of 20062007 and the AS5 period of 20072011. The sample comprises 2,062 AS2 observations (divided between 1,877 non-ICW and 185 ICW observations) and 9,200 AS5 observations (divided between 8,870 non-ICW and 330 ICW observations). The authors use Compustat Annual and Business Segment files to gather information.

    Findings:
    • Audit report lags in the AS5 years were significantly lower than those in the AS2 years; the report lags decline, on an average, by 1.85 days.
    • ICW firms, in general, have larger report lags than the clean SOX 404 firms, but AS5 does not have an incremental effect on the report lags for the ICW firms, indicating the report lags decline only for the firms with a clean SOX 404 opinion.
    • Separate analyses for the ICW firms with company-level and account-specific material weaknesses show that audit report lags for those firms do not significantly change between the AS2 and AS5 periods and continue to be higher compared with those for the clean SOX 404 firms.
    • Additional tests using a constant sample of firms demonstrate a learning curve effect of AS5 in reducing report lags in the post-AS5 period both for the full sample and for the firms with a clean SOX 404 opinion.
    • The report lags significantly decline in both the early and late AS5 periods for both the large accelerated filers and accelerated filers and for the full constant sample.
    • Overall, the results show that the new top-down, risk-based approach under AS5 makes the audit process more efficient and timelier by decreasing audit report lags.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Standard Setting
    Sub-category:
    Changes in Audit Standards, Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions, Impact of 404, Impact of PCAOB, Impact of SOX

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