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    Material Weakness Remediation and Earnings Quality: A...
    research summary posted October 16, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 07.0 Internal Control, 07.02 Assessing Material Weaknesses, 07.03 Reporting Material Weaknesses, 07.04 Assessing Remediation of Weaknesses, 07.05 Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality 
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    Title:
    Material Weakness Remediation and Earnings Quality: A Detailed Examination by Type of Control Deficiency.
    Practical Implications:

    Combining the remediation and earnings quality analyses, the results imply that investors should be most concerned about MWs in information technology, segregation of duties, account reconciliations, taxation, revenues, and inventory. These types occur frequently and are slow to remediate; thus, their effects on financial reporting linger longer than others. Their link to near-term earnings quality is evident, as their remediation reduces abnormal accruals, and/or their lack of remediation in the following year further increases accruals. In general, these results suggest that financial statement users should adopt a more granular view of remediation, as successful remediation of some specific MWs can signal improvement in the quality of disclosed financial information even if other MWs remain unremediated.

    Citation:

    Bedard, J. C., R. Hoitash, U. Hoitash, and K. Westermann. 2012. Material Weakness Remediation and Earnings Quality: A Detailed Examination by Type of Control Deficiency. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 31 (1): 57-78.

    Keywords:
    internal control, material weakness, remediation, Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404
    Purpose of the Study:

    This paper investigates the remediation likelihood of specific types of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Section 404 material weaknesses (MWs) in internal control over financial reporting, and the association between remediation of specific types of MW with changes in earnings quality. This detailed look at remediation is important because companies disclose many types of control problems under Section 404, which likely vary in remediation difficulty as well as in impact on the financial reports. Because the goal of Section 404 is to improve financial reporting, it is important to identify specific areas in which control problems are less tractable and more influential. However, no study yet provides a detailed, comprehensive analysis of remediation by specific MW type. The authors first examine remediation rates by specific MW type, and investigate the association of MW type remediation with constraints identified by prior research. Next, they investigate which MW types have greater influence on earnings quality, by associating remediation of specific types with reductions in abnormal accruals. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors obtain data on Section 404 MW from 2004–2006 from the AA database. They gather auditor information from AA, financial data from Compustat, and institutional ownership from Thomson Financial. The authors’ final sample consists of 567 observations that reported Section 404 MWs in either 2004 or 2005, representing 496 companies.

    Findings:
    • Finer classification does provide greater insight in showing that all specific entity-level MW types exhibit lower remediation likelihood.
    • Companies with fewer resources are less likely to remediate problems that involve large capital investments.
    • Companies with weaker governance are less likely to remediate problems linked by past research to earnings management.
    • Most companies with repeated disclosure of ineffective controls engaged in some successful remediation activity following initial disclosure, as only 3 percent had no success in remediating any MW types.
    • Certain types of MW have a greater impact on earnings quality, both when disclosed and when remediated, including some entity-level and some account-specific MW types. For most of these types, remediation reverses the higher abnormal accruals observed on disclosure. However, if remediation does not occur within a year from disclosure, abnormal accruals continue to increase for virtually all MW types.
    • Information technology and segregation of duties problems share an element of personnel reallocation, as the definition of information technology issues shown in includes specific reference to segregation of duties. Remediating such problems could involve hiring new workers, changing assignments or workflows, and thus could take more time than the remediation of other MW types. However, earnings quality is shown to increase in those companies that invest in solutions to these problems and reassign personnel appropriately.
    Category:
    Internal Control
    Sub-category:
    Assessing Material Weaknesses, Assessing Remediation of Weaknesses, Impact of 404 on Fees and Financial Reporting Quality, Reporting Material Weaknesses