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    CEO and CFO Equity Incentives and the Pricing of Audit...
    research summary posted October 20, 2014 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 02.02 Client Risk Assessment, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.01 Earnings Management, 14.07 Executive Compensation 
    CEO and CFO Equity Incentives and the Pricing of Audit Services
    Practical Implications:

    Our study highlights the importance of taking into account executive incentive plans in improving the understanding of auditors’ risk assessment and pricing decisions, in support of the current professional audit standards. The findings that auditors respond to CEO and CFO equity incentives differently have significant implications for the corporate governance reforms and the design of optimal corporate executive compensation policies. Following the accounting scandals in the early 2000s, there has been increased regulatory and legislative scrutiny on corporate governance. Especially, regulators have recognized CFOs as the individuals bearing responsibilities for the integrity of financial information. Our paper lends support to the regulatory inclusion of CFOs as accountable individuals, and to concerns that firms should exercise caution in compensating CFOs using equity-based tools.


    For more information on this study, please contact Yonghong Jia.


    Billings, B. A., X. Gao, and Y. Jia. 2014. CEO and CFO Equity Incentives and the Pricing of Audit Services. AUDITING: A Journal of Practice & Theory 33 (2): 1-25

    Audit fees; auditor risk assessment; equity incentive; accounting manipulation
    Purpose of the Study:

    The alleged perverse role of managerial incentives in accounting scandals and the distinctive role of auditors in identifying and intervening in attempted earnings manipulation, highlight the importance of explicitly considering executive incentive plans by auditors in the auditing process. However, there is little systematic evidence on auditors’ responses to the sizable holdings of equity by executives, a phenomenon that is particularly common in US public companies. In this paper, we investigate the association between executive equity incentives and auditors’ risk assessment and consequently audit pricing decisions. We examine auditors’ responses to equity incentives for CEOs and CFOs separately and jointly and inquire whether the responses are different.  

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    We gather information on audit fees, non-audit fees, auditors, internal control information from AuditAnalystics, executive compensation data from ExecuComp, and financial variables from Compustat, for the years 2002 through 2009. We estimate standard audit fee regression models that include variables to capture executive equity incentives and control variables that are identified to be determinants of audit fees by prior studies. 


    Using different measures of executive equity incentives and following standard audit service pricing research designs, we document compelling evidence that auditors adjust the price of their audit services upward in response to CFO equity incentives, suggesting that auditors perceive heightened audit risk associated with CFO equity incentives. We find some evidence that auditors view CEO equity incentives as innocuous or even beneficial in term of audit risk. We further demonstrate that the presence of internal control problems augments the positive relation between CFO equity incentives and audit fees, suggesting particularly elevated risk concerning CFO equity incentives perceived by auditors when internal controls are flawed. 

    Client Acceptance and Continuance, Corporate Matters
    Audit Fee Decisions, Client Risk Assessment, Earnings Management, Executive Compensation