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    The Insurance Hypothesis: An Examination of KPMG's Audit...
    research summary posted September 14, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.09 Litigation Risk 
    The Insurance Hypothesis: An Examination of KPMG's Audit Clients around the Investigation and Settlement of the Tax Shelter Case.
    Practical Implications:

    This paper makes an important contribution to the literature. Using a natural institutional setting, the authors find evidence of the insurance effect in a general sample of firms in the equity market. Understanding the role of the auditor insurance function and its association with client stock prices can help auditors to better understand the pricing of audit services and it can help lawmakers in assessing the costs and benefits of professional service litigation and of proposed future litigation reform legislation. The results aid investors in understanding one of the major economic roles of the audit function.


    Brown, D. L., S. Z. Shu, B. S. Soo, and G. M. Trompeter. 2013. The Insurance Hypothesis: An Examination of KPMG's Audit Clients around the Investigation and Settlement of the Tax Shelter Case. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 32 (4): 1-24.

    insurance hypothesis, KPMG, tax shelter
    Purpose of the Study:

    Although prior literature has suggested that independent audits provide an implicit form of insurance against investor losses (the insurance hypothesis), it has been challenging to isolate the insurance effect. In this paper, the authors use a unique setting to examine this effect. In 2002, KPMG was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice in relation to tax shelters sold by the firm. From then until early 2005, several news reports suggested that KPMG would be indicted and suffer potentially the same fate as Arthur Andersen. However, in August of 2005 KPMG entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which ended widespread speculation of an impending federal indictment against the accounting firm. Because the investigation centered around tax services offered by the firm, the authors argue that the circumstances surrounding the investigation and settlement provide a natural setting to test the insurance value provided by auditors. Specifically, the authors examine the security price reactions of KPMG’s audit clients to the news of their auditor’s investigation by, and settlement with, the DOJ.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use Compustat, CRSP and Audit Analytics to collect data. Depending on the event window, the sample varies from 920 for the settlement period to 920 to 1,012 for the investigation period. In addition to the event study, the authors also conduct a cross-sectional analysis. They use a smaller sample of 516 firms for this part of the analysis. The authors use data from the Summer 2002 to Summer 2005.


    Focusing on the KPMG tax shelter investigation and settlement, the authors provide evidence consistent with an auditor insurance function being impounded in stock prices. Specifically, they find that KPMG client firms earn significantly negative abnormal returns during the periods when news reports indicated that it was subject to government prosecution over its role in marketing tax shelter products to its clients and earn positive abnormal returns following news of a settlement. They also examine whether these abnormal returns for KPMG clients are increasing for firms with a higher probability to utilize the insurance option, i.e., those subject to higher litigation risk and more financially distressed. As expected, results show that firms in financial distress and firms with high litigation risk experienced significantly higher abnormal returns.

    Client Acceptance and Continuance, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Audit Fee Decisions, Litigation Risk