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    Are the Reputations of the Large Accounting Firms Really...
    research summary posted April 23, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 03.0 Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes, 03.01 Auditor Qualifications, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.09 Litigation Risk 
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    Title:
    Are the Reputations of the Large Accounting Firms Really International?
    Practical Implications:

    This study provides an important implication for audit firms in maintaining their worldwide brand name reputation. The results suggest that, for global audit firms, the damage to auditor reputation in one country may spill over and cause concern among investors about the quality of their services in other countries. Further, the damage to reputation is greater where the demand for auditing and assurance is higher.

    Citation:

    Cahan, S. F., D. Emanuel, and J. Sun. 2009. Are the Reputations of the Large Accounting Firms Really International? Evidence from the Andersen-Enron Affair.  Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 28 (2):  199-226. 

    Keywords:
    Auditor reputation, international audit markets, Arthur Andersen, Enron, auditor selection and auditor changes
    Purpose of the Study:

    The Big 4 accounting firms market themselves as global firms that deliver a uniform level of service across countries. While such a global reputation helps build worldwide demand for high-quality audits, it also creates risks if service quality becomes questionable in one of the countries in which a firm operates. Questionable audit practices in one of the countries, especially in the home jurisdiction, may  raise doubts as to whether sub-standard audits also occur in other countries. 

    This study examines whether the damage to the name brand of Arthur Andersen following the Andersen-Enron scandal in the U.S. spilled over into other countries. The study focuses on two key event dates leading up to Andersen’s demise: (1) January 10, 2002, when Andersen announced it had shredded documents related to the Enron audit, and (2) February 4, 2002, when Enron’s board released the Powers report that was critical of Andersen and when Andersen announced the establishment of an Independent Oversight Board (IOB) to investigate the firm’s audit policies and procedures. This study investigates the market reaction to Andersen’s clientele base around these two dates to determine whether: 

    • the events caused investors to reassess the reputation of Andersen’s non-U.S. audit units. 
    • investors’ reevaluation of Andersen’s reputation is more pronounced in cases where there is a higher demand for audit quality or credible financial statements. 
    • the effect is due to the perceived assurance or insurance value of an audit. The assurance value relates to an auditor’s ability to communicate with investors about the overall quality of client financial statements, while the insurance value relates to an auditor’s legal and financial liability for an audit failure.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use data on publicly-traded companies audited by Arthur Andersen in 2001 to examine whether there is a negative market reaction to Andersen’s non-U.S. clients around the two event dates discussed above.

    Findings:
    • The authors document that an adverse market reaction to Andersen’s clients exists in non-U.S. countries, which suggests that the damage to Andersen’s reputation and audit quality in the U.S. spilled over to other countries.  
    • The market reaction is more negative in countries where there is a greater demand for high-quality auditing and credible financial reporting. More specifically, more-pronounced adverse market reactions are observed in common law (compared to code law) countries where investor protection is higher, ownership is more dispersed, and conflicts of interest between owners and managers are more likely to occur. 
    • The authors find that the market reaction for the shredding event is more negative for Andersen’s non-U.S., cross-listed clients than for Andersen’s non-U.S., non-cross-listed clients. This suggests that the shredding event may have been anticipated by the U.S. market as triggering lawsuits against Andersen and reducing its ability to pay for possible legal claims. 
    • The authors also report a similar market reaction for Andersen’s non-U.S., cross-listed clients and Andersen’s U.S. clients, suggesting similar levels of perceived audit quality across Andersen as a whole.
    Category:
    Auditor Selection and Auditor Changes, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Sub-category:
    Auditor Qualifications (e.g. size - industry expertise), Litigation Risk
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