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    Abnormal Audit Fees and Audit Quality: The Importance of...
    research summary posted September 21, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.01 Earnings Management 
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    Title:
    Abnormal Audit Fees and Audit Quality: The Importance of Considering Managerial Incentives in Tests of Earnings Management.
    Practical Implications:

    This paper provides new evidence on the fee-quality relationship using the propensity to use income-increasing discretionary accruals to meet or beat analysts' forecasts. The evidence in this paper suggests that abnormal audit fees are positively related to audit quality. This result is consistent with concerns raised by regulators that lower audit fees could reflect a lower level of effort provided by the auditor. This is important, given the trend of declining audit fees in recent years. By finding different results using a more focused sample of firms with the incentive and ability to manage earnings, this study highlights the importance of considering the context when performing tests of earnings management. This information is of interest to regulators, such as the SEC.

    Citation:

    Eshleman, J. D., & P. Guo. 2014. Abnormal Audit Fees and Audit Quality: The Importance of Considering Managerial Incentives in Tests of Earnings Management. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 33 (1): 117-138.

    Keywords:
    audit fees, audit quality, discretionary accruals, meet-or-beat, earnings management
    Purpose of the Study:

    In this study, the authors attempt to shed light on the conflicting evidence by performing a study of the relationship between abnormal audit fees and audit quality using a new research design. Specifically, the authors examine whether clients paying abnormal audit fees are more or less likely to use discretionary accruals to meet or beat the consensus analyst forecast.

    A growing body of accounting literature examines the relationship between audit fees and audit quality. Researchers are interested in this relationship because, ex ante, it is not clear whether receiving higher fee revenue from a client will improve audit quality or harm it. On the one hand, it could be argued that an auditor who receives abnormally high audit fees from a client will lose their independence and allow the managers of the client firm to engage in questionable accounting practices. However, it is also possible that audit fees are a measure of audit effort, i.e., higher fees indicate that the auditor worked more hours, signaling greater effort. To the extent that audit fees are a measure of audit effort, low audit fees could harm audit quality.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Audit fee and auditor data are obtained from Audit Analytics, financial statement data are obtained from Compustat, and analyst forecast data are obtained from the I/B/E/S database. The authors perform tests on two samples of 4,476 firm-years and 1,670 firm-year observations spanning 2000 to 2011.

    Findings:

    The authors find that clients paying higher abnormal audit fees are significantly less likely to use discretionary accruals to meet or beat the consensus analyst forecast. If abnormal audit fees are held at their mean, a one-standard-deviation increase in abnormal audit fees decreases the client's likelihood of using discretionary accruals to meet or beat the consensus forecast by approximately 5 percent. This is consistent with higher audit fees being indicative of greater auditor effort and, ultimately, better audit quality. The authors obtain similar results whether they use the audit fee model of Choi et al. (2010), the one proposed by Blankley et al. (2012), or their own audit fee model.

    Category:
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Client Acceptance and Continuance, Corporate Matters
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Earnings Management