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    Audit Fees after Remediation of Internal Control Weaknesses
    research summary posted June 22, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 07.0 Internal Control, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 07.04 Assessing Remediation of Weaknesses, 07.05 Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, 12.0 Accountants’ Reports and Reporting, 12.06 Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions 
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    Title:
    Audit Fees after Remediation of Internal Control Weaknesses
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for companies and regulators that are trying to understand the true costs for firms with an adverse report on internal control. It further informs the continuing debate regarding Section 404 of SOX and provides some evidence that these premiums can be as high as 30 (20) percent in the first(second) year after remediation when compared to firms that only have clean Section 404 reports. Lastly, this provides opportunities for future research investigating how long it takes audit fees to return the level of companies that only receive clean opinions and whether or not this premium relates to additional audit work or a risk premium.

    Citation:

    Munsif, V., K. Raghunandan, D. V. Rama, and M. Singhvi. 2011. Audit Fees after Remediation of Internal Control Weaknesses.  Accounting Horizons 25 (1):  87-105. 

    Keywords:
    internal controls; audit fees; material weakness; remediation
    Purpose of the Study:

    Firms that receive an adverse report on internal control under Section 404 of SOX typically experience significant costs, such as a higher cost of capital. Additionally, these companies reporting material weaknesses also tend pay higher audit fees which is consistent with the belief that ineffective internal controls leads to a higher propensity for misstatements. Conversely, it is logical to expect that these higher fees will return to normalized levels if the weakness is remediated; however, recent evidence in regards to control problems disclosed pursuant to Section 302 of SOX has been contrary to this belief. This study attempts to provide clarification to these findings and investigates whether audit fees return to previous levels after the remediation of material weaknesses disclosed under Section 404 of SOX. It is important to recognize that in contrast to prior research which examines fees in the year of (or year prior to) remediation, this study examines the audit fees in the years following the remediation  in order to determine if the higher fees that the company pays in year of disclosure remain at a premium even two or three years after remediation.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use data on SEC registrants and collect information on audit fees and Section 404 disclosures for the first four years of internal control reporting (2004-2007). The authors exclude financial sector companies, as well as, foreign firms and compare audit fees over the four year period of analysis for SEC registrants with fiscal year-ends from November 15 through May 31 of the following calendar year. The authors examine audit fees in years subsequent to the remediation of internal control weaknesses in order to determine whether auditors continue to view firms that had ever received an adverse Section 404 opinion as being “tainted,” such that even after remediating the problem, firms continue to pay an audit fee premium.

    Findings:

    The authors find that remediating firms have lower audit fees when compared to firms that continue to report material weaknesses in internal control. However, the remediating firms continue to pay, in the year of remediation as well as one and two years subsequent to remediation, a significant audit fee premium compared to firms that have clean Section 404 reports in each of the first four years of internal control reporting. The authors also show that general weaknesses have a higher effect on audit fees than only account-specific internal control weaknesses.

    Category:
    Internal Control, Accountants' Reporting
    Sub-category:
    Assessing Material Weaknesses, Reporting Material Weaknesses, Assessing Remediation of Weaknesses, Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, Consequences of Adverse 404 Opinions
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