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    CEO Equity Incentives and Audit Fees.
    research summary posted September 15, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 02.02 Client Risk Assessment, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.06 Earnings Management 
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    Title:
    CEO Equity Incentives and Audit Fees.
    Practical Implications:

    According to the authors, stock options and restricted stocks are important components in CEO compensation. This study shows that auditors do perceive greater audit risk due to CEO equity compensation adjust pricing decisions accordingly. Auditors appear more concerned about CEO’s incentives to increase a company’s risky behavior so as to the CEO’s equity based compensation as opposed to increasing stock price specifically. As a CEO’s vega (i.e. change in value of a manager’s equity portfolio due to a change in stock return volatility) increases, a manager becomes less risk averse and more willing to engage in risky behavior such as earnings management. This study offers additional insights into the cost/benefits of equity based compensation.

    Citation:

    Kim, Y., H. Li, and S. Li. 2015. CEO Equity Incentives and Audit Fees. Contemporary Accounting Review 32 (2): 608-638.

    Keywords:
    Stock Option Compensation, Audit Fees, Earnings Management
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines the relationship between CEO equity incentives and audit risk assessment and pricing. More specifically, it examines whether/how auditors perceive CEO equity as a risk factor and incorporate into their audit pricing decisions. The authors also seek to start reconciling prior mixed evidence regarding equity incentives and earnings management and determine whether earnings management risk is due to equity compensation’s (i.e. manager’s wealth) relationship with stock return volatility (i.e. risk) or stock price. This study refines insights into the determinants of audit risk/pricing decisions and links two literatures, executive compensation and auditor compensation.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Sample: S&P 1500 companies over 20002009
    Source: Audit Analytics (Audit Fees), COMPUSTAT’s ExecuComp (CEO compensation)
    ModelOLS with Log Audit Fees regressed on Log CEO Vega, Log CEO Delta, Audit Fee determinants from previous studies, and year/industry fixed effects

    Findings:

    Findings show that a CEO’s portfolio vega (i.e. change in value of a manager’s equity portfolio due to a change in stock return volatility) is the important determinant of audit risk/pricing and subsumes the effects found in the previous research of a CEO’s portfolio delta (i.e. change in value of a manager’s equity portfolio due to a change in stock price) on audit risk/pricing.

    Additional analyses/results include:  

    • Repeat main analysis for CFO equity incentives. No association found.
    • Examining “direct” effect of equity incentives on audit fees (i.e. general complexity of auditing stock-based compensation) by exploring post SFAS 123R period requirements to fair value nonexecutive employees’ stock options. No association found.
    • Alternative measures of CEO equity incentives including total options held by CEO, percent of CEO equity compensation of total CEO compensation, and broader measures of CEO equity compensation. Similar results to main results.

    Results are robust to several endogeneity tests including:

    • First time options grants and changes in audit fees model
    • Inclusion of firm fixed effects
    • Instrumental variables approach
    • Dynamic panel GMM estimation (Arellano-Bond system GMM estimator)
    • Additional controls for riskiness of firm investment and financial policies
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Client Risk Assessment, Earnings Management, Earnings Management