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  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Debt Covenant Violations, Firm Financial Distress, and...
    research summary posted June 26, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 02.06 Resignation Decisions, 12.01 Going Concern Decisions in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Debt Covenant Violations, Firm Financial Distress, and Auditor Actions
    Practical Implications:

    The findings from this study impact firms with debt covenant requirements. Violations from debt covenants occur frequently and are often due to tight restrictions rather than signs of financial distress. These types of violations often lead to renegotations or waivers instead of immediate repayment. However, this study shows that auditors will still have negative reactions regardless of whether or not the violation is due to financial difficulty. It is important for firms to not only consider the financial and lending consequences of a violation, but the auditing consequences as well.

    Citation:

    Bhaskar, Lori Shefchik, G. V. Krishnan, and W. Yu.2017. “Debt Covenant Violations, Firm Financial Distress, and Auditor Actions”. Contemporary Accounting Research 34.1 (2017): 186.

    Purpose of the Study:

    This study investigates auditor actions resulting from debt covenant violations for firms. The violations increase business risk and subsequently cause the auditor to respond negatively. The audit actions examined in this paper are:

    • Adjustments in the audit plan causing higher audit fees.
    • The issuance of a going concern opinion.
    • The resignation of the auditor.

    The authors also consider the financial health of the firms before the violation was given. It is hypothesized that auditors are more likely to have a negative reaction to firms that are already financially distressed.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The sample includes 4,267 violations occurring from 2000 to 2008. All of the firms were U.S. nonfinancial public companies. The authors gathered the information from databases such as Compustat and Audit Analytics. The analysis was performed by estimating models of the auditor actions based on different client characteristics.

    Findings:

    The authors find the following:

    • Firms with debt covenant violations have significantly higher audit fees.
    • Firms have an increased likelihood of receiving a going-concern opinion after a violation. This is increased even more for firms that are not financially distressed. The authors attribute this to the fact that auditors tend to act more strongly because the information was inconsistent with prior beliefs.
    • Debt covenant violations lead to an increased likelihood of auditor resignation.
    • There is a positive association between the Big 4 auditors and all three auditor actions listed above.
    Category:
    Accountants' Reporting, Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Going Concern Decisions, Resignation Decisions
    Home:

    http://commons.aaahq.org/groups/e5075f0eec/summary

  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Fee Differential, Audit Effort, and Litigation Risk:...
    research summary posted June 26, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 15.0 International Matters in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Audit Fee Differential, Audit Effort, and Litigation Risk: An Examination of ADR Firms
    Practical Implications:

    There are numerous factors that go into a firm’s decision to cross-list on foreign stock exchanges. One factor firms should consider regarding entrance into the U.S. stock exchange is an increase in audit fees. The evidence from this study indicates this increase can be traced back to costs from the legal environment and increased audit effort. 

    Citation:

    Bronson, Scott N., A. Ghosh, and C. E. Hogan. 2017. “Audit Fee Differential, Audit Effort, and Litigation risk: An Examination of ADR Firms”. Contemporary Accounting Research 34.1 (2017): 83.

    Purpose of the Study:

    U.S. investors rely on financial statements by foreign firms cross-listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Therefore, these financial statements must comply with accounting standards from the entity’s home country and U.S. standards. Previous studies have identified that audit fees are higher for cross-listed firms and attributed this to added litigation costs. This study examines if there are additional factors causing the audit fees to be higher for cross-listed firms. Specifically, about whether an increase in audit effort is incrementally related to price increases and if audit effort varies based on the stringency of an entity’s home country regulations. The authors presume the additional audit effort will result from the attestation of U.S. GAAP reconciliations and foreign auditor attestation of U.S. audit and independence standards.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The final sample consists of 36,646 observations and only includes entities audited by Big 4 firms. Compustat was used to find U.S.-based publicly traded firms, a list of foreign firms cross-listed in the United States was obtained from Bank of New York Mellon, and foreign non-cross listed publicly traded firms was listed in Worldscope and Compustat Global. The analysis was run using a regression of audit fees.

    Findings:

    The authors find the following:

    • Cross-listed firms in the United States do in fact pay significantly higher fees relative to other firms.
    • This total fee difference includes both incremental costs in legal environment and audit effort. The authors attributed 29% to 48% of this additional incremental costs as the additional audit effort required.
    • Cross-listed firms in countries with more stringent audit oversight pay a lower incremental audit fee compared to cross-listed firms in countries with more lax audit oversight.
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance, International Matters
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions
    Home:

    http://commons.aaahq.org/groups/e5075f0eec/summary

  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Does Incentive-Based Compensation for Chief Internal...
    research summary posted June 22, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 02.02 Client Risk Assessment, 04.02 Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Management, 08.11 Reliance on Internal Auditors in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Does Incentive-Based Compensation for Chief Internal Auditors Impact Objectivity? An External Audit Risk Perspective
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study suggest that companies who offer incentive-based compensation to chief internal auditors, especially through equity, are more likely to be perceived as having a higher audit risk by external auditors. Consequently, external auditors may charge a higher fee for their services. This study gives a basis for the benefit/cost analysis of providing incentive-based compensation for chief internal auditors. While it is possible internal auditors will respond positively to an IBC and bring extra value to the organization, there is a risk that an external auditor could raise audit fees cancelling out this added benefit.   

    Citation:

    Chen, Lucy Huajing, H. H. Chung, G. F. Peters., and J. P. Wynn. (Jeannie).2017. Does Incentive-Based Compensation for Chief Internal Auditors Impact Objectivity? An External Audit Risk Perspective. Auditing, A Journal of Practice and Theory 36 (21): 21-44

    Keywords:
    Incentive-based compensation; internal auditor objectivity; audit fees
    Purpose of the Study:

    The internal audit function (IAF) is increasingly seen as a key component of corporate governance. The extent to which external auditors can rely on information from the IAF depends largely on the internal auditor’s objectivity. The researchers question whether receiving incentive-based compensation (IBC) linked to company performance threatens internal audit employees’ objectivity. Subsequently, this threat would lead to a higher assessment of client audit risk and therefore higher audit fees. The authors also consider whether external auditors view stock- and option-based compensation differently from cash incentives. Finally, the authors examine whether the objectivity threat from IBC depends on the company’s financial reporting risks, alignment of IAF compensation with CEO compensation, and presence of any internal audit outsourcing arrangements.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors surveyed chief internal auditors of NYSE-listed firms in 2007. The participants were asked to rank the performance measures in order of their emphasis and to indicate the form of IBC payment. By asking survey respondents to provide their company names, the authors could match the financial, audit fee, governance, and incentive data from various databases (Compustat, Audit Analytics, proxy statements, etc.). The final sample included 183 companies. Authors used multivariate regression to analyze their research questions.

    Findings:

    The overall finding is that when a company offers incentive-based compensation to a chief internal auditor, external audit fees increase. This finding suggests that external auditors do consider IBC for chief internal auditors as a threat against objectivity.

     

    Additionally, the authors find that:

    • External auditors are more likely to charge higher fees for stock- and option-based compensation compared to cash bonuses. They attribute this result to employees placing more of an emphasis on personal wealth rather than firm value.
    • There is a stronger positive effect of chief internal auditors receiving IBC and external auditor fees increasing when inherent risk is higher in the audit. Specifically, the authors focused on inherent risk related to inventory levels.
    • In situations where the CEO’s equity incentives are aligned with IAF’s equity incentives there is an even greater rise in external auditor fees.
    Category:
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Client Acceptance and Continuance, Independence & Ethics
    Sub-category:
    Client Risk Assessment
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Market Structure and Audit Pricing
    research summary posted April 19, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Audit Market Structure and Audit Pricing
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this paper contribute to the understanding of the determinants of audit firms’ initial audit price discount decisions. The results suggest that concentration of audit firms within the local audit market has a stronger influence on non-Big 4 audit firms’ initial pricing decisions compared to Big 4 firms’ initial pricing decisions. In addition, the results are of interest to regulators and managers who are concerned about the effect of audit market concentration on audit pricing and audit quality.

    Citation:

    Eshleman, J. D. and B. P. Lawson. 2017. Audit Market Structure and Audit Pricing. Accounting Horizons 31 (1): 57 – 81. 

    Keywords:
    audit pricing, auditor switches, audit market concentration, and lowballing.
    Purpose of the Study:

    Increasingly, regulators, standard setters, and audit clients have expressed concern over the level of concentration in the U.S. audit market. The primary concern is that audit market concentration could result in higher fees for audit clients, which is supported by economic theory that suggests a positive association between concentration within an industry and industry prices. Despite this theory and the concerns that exist, the association between increased concentration within the U.S. audit market and audit fees remain unclear. Previous studies have examined this issue with mixed results. As a result of the mixed evidence that exists, the authors choose to re-examine the association between audit market concentration and audit fees. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use two settings to examine whether and how audit market concentration affects audit fees. First, they examine how concentration is related to audit fees in a sample of stable auditor-client relationships. Next, they examine how audit market concertation affects audit fees in a sample of firms that switch auditors. They conduct these examinations using a large sample of U.S. audit engagements covering the years 2000 – 2013.    

    Findings:
    • The authors find, in their test of non-changing audit clients, a significantly positive association between audit market concentration and audit fees.
      • The authors find that the positive association is driven by the inclusion of MSA-level indicator variables in the audit fee model that they chose. For example, when they control for MSA-level fixed effects in their models, they find the association between audit market concentration and audit fees changes from significantly negative to significantly positive.
    • The authors’ test of initial audit fee discounts indicates that increases in concentration significantly reduce the discounts.
    • The authors provide some evidence that the effect of local audit market concentration on audit fees is more pronounced for smaller clients.
    • The authors find that concentration is positively associated with audit quality, as proxied by abnormal accruals. 
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Pricing for Strategic Alliances: An Incomplete...
    research summary posted February 16, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 02.05 Business Risk Assessment - e.g., industry, IPO, complexity in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Audit Pricing for Strategic Alliances: An Incomplete Contract Perspective
    Practical Implications:

    This paper adds a new dimension to the research on strategic alliances by focusing on auditing rather than governance, performance, funding, or equity participation. It also identifies incomplete contracts as the driver of audit complexity, and extends the audit fee literature by documenting that the number of strategic alliances is a significant determinant of audit fees. Finally, the authors’ evidence that strategic alliances result in higher audit fees provides empirical support for the largely theoretical argument that incomplete contracts are complex. 

    Citation:

    Demirkan, S. and N. Zhou. 2016. Audit Pricing for Strategic Alliances: An Incomplete Contract Perspective. Contemporary Accounting Research 33 (4): 1625-1647.

    Purpose of the Study:

    A strategic alliance is a long-term contract between multiple firms where resources are pooled to accomplish preset objectives, creating dependence between otherwise legally independent firms. Prior research has focused on the emergence, management and survival of alliances; consequently, there is not substantial research on the relation between strategic alliances and auditing. This paper fills that void by investigating how auditors price their audit services for firms involved in strategic alliances. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors conduct a study on the pricing of audit services for strategic alliances through compiling data and utilizing descriptive statistics.  

    Findings:
    • The authors find that the nonverifiability of information and potential agency behavior in alliances increase audit complexity, resulting in higher audit fees.
    • The authors find that auditors are less likely to issue going-concern modified opinions when there is an increase in strategic alliances; moreover, an increase in strategic alliances is associated with a reduction in bankruptcy risk as measured by Altman Z-Scores.
    • The authors find that an increase in strategic alliances is unrelated to the likelihood of financial misstatements.
    • The authors find that an increase in strategic alliances is unrelated to internal control weakness opinions. 
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Business Risk Assessment (e.g. industry - IPO - complexity)
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Earnings Quality Information Content of Dividend...
    research summary posted February 16, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    The Earnings Quality Information Content of Dividend Policies and Audit Pricing
    Practical Implications:

    Taken together, the results of this study suggest that dividends provide information to auditors and mitigate concerns over their clients’ earnings quality. It appears dividends provide incremental information to auditors beyond other audit risk indicators, such as low earnings persistence or high accruals. These findings also suggest that firms’ dividend-paying status provides an easily observable cue to auditors and others that can be used when assessing a firms’ earnings quality. 

    Citation:

    Lawson, B. P. and D. Wang. 2016. The Earnings Quality Information Content of Dividend Policies and Audit Pricing. Contemporary Accounting Research 33 (4): 1685 – 1719. 

    Purpose of the Study:

    This study further explores the earnings quality information content of firms’ dividend policies by examining whether auditors incorporate this information into the assessment of their clients’ earnings quality as reflected in their audit pricing decisions. The authors choose to delve into the question of whether dividends’ association with higher earnings quality influences auditors’ risk assessment of their clients. In addition, they examine the incremental earnings quality information that dividends can provide auditors by testing two separate earnings risk settings. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors test two separate earnings risk settings by using audit fees and financial statement data from 2004 to 2012. 

    Findings:
    • The authors find that dividend-paying firms pay lower audit fees than nondividend-paying firms after controlling for various determinants of audit pricing decisions.
    • The authors find that audit fees are significantly lower (higher) for dividend-initiating (-omitting) firms compared to benchmark audit fees.
    • The authors find that the negative association between audit fees and earnings persistence is more pronounced for dividend firms, suggesting that as earnings persistence increases, dividends provide auditors with assurance regarding the lower audit risk embedded in more persistent earnings. 
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Client Acceptance and Engagement Pricing following Auditor...
    research summary posted January 17, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Client Acceptance and Engagement Pricing following Auditor Resignations in Family Firms
    Practical Implications:

    This study contributes to the auditor-client realignment literature by examining whether auditors’ client acceptance and pricing decisions vary with firm ownership structure, which was not investigated before. It also documents a significant association between the identity of the successor auditor and firm ownership structure following the resignation of the incumbent auditor. This is important given the potential consequences of auditor changes to both auditors and their clients. 

    Citation:

    Khalil, S. and M. Mazboudi. 2016. Client Acceptance and Engagement Pricing following Auditor Resignations in Family Firms. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (4): 137 – 158. 

    Keywords:
    client acceptance, audit pricing, auditor resignations, and family firms.
    Purpose of the Study:

    The authors of this paper extend current research by examining whether firm ownership structure is associated with client acceptance and pricing decisions following the resignation of the incumbent auditor. More specifically, the authors test whether the identity of the successor auditor (Big 4 or non-Big 4) and the change in audit fees following auditor resignations in family firms are significantly different from those in non-family firms in the U.S. They further investigate whether the aforementioned results hold when the identity of the CEO managing a family firm and the percentage of shares held by the family members are accounted for. Finally, the authors examine whether the likelihood of financial restatements in family firms over the two-year period following the incumbent auditor resignation is significantly different from that in non-family firms. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors analyze results obtained using a sample of auditor resignations over the post-SOX period 2004-2012.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that Big 4 auditors are more likely to serve as successor auditors following auditor resignations in family firms as opposed to non-family firms.
    • The authors find that the likelihood of having Big 4 auditors serving as successor auditors is higher in family firms managed by a family member or by a professional manager. This implies that big 4 auditors perceive family firms as being less risky than their non-family counterparts following auditor resignations, irrespective of whether a family member is involved in management or not.
    • The authors find that the change in audit fees following auditor resignations in family firms is significantly smaller than that in non-family firms after controlling for a wide battery of variables that affect the change in audit fees. 
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Audit Market Concentration, Audit Fees, and Audit Quality:...
    research summary posted July 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Audit Market Concentration, Audit Fees, and Audit Quality: Evidence from China
    Practical Implications:

    This study is important given the continued concerns expressed by global regulators about the potential harm to audit quality caused by concentrated audit markets. The separation of offsetting direct and indirect effects of concentration on audit quality enhances the understanding of how concentration influences audit quality and could explain why the previous studies document mixed evidences. The study also provides evidence on how audit fees play an important role in the association between concentration and audit quality and that regulatory interventions changing one of the offsetting effects could produce potential unintended consequences. 

    Citation:

    Huang, T., Chang, H., and Chiou, J. 2016. Audit Market Concentration, Audit Fees, and Audit Quality: Evidence from China. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (2): 121-145.

    Keywords:
    audit market concentration, audit fees, audit quality, and China
    Purpose of the Study:

    The potential effects of recent audit market concentration on audit fees and audit quality have been a point of concern for policy makers. The primary concern is that this concentration reduces clients’ choice of audit service suppliers, strengthens auditor’s market power, and encourages complacency among auditors, resulting in higher audit fees but lower audit quality. Despite the concern, the extant literature provides mixed evidence on the consequences of audit market concentration. The situation between developed countries where audit markets are dominated by the Big 4 audit firms, and the Chinese Ministry of Finance (MOF) is starkly different. As a result, the MOF has expressed concern about the competitive and immature Chinese audit market characterized by many small-seized audit firms, which increases auditors; incentives to compete for clients by providing fee discounts, resulting in low audit quality. The difference in attitudes toward concentration between the developed countries and China as well as the fact that China is a setting where competition is thriving, while most of the developed countries are more concerned about lack of competition is the primary motivation behind the authors examination of the Chinese audit market. The objective of the paper is to investigate the effect of concentration on audit quality in a setting with significant competition a relatively weak legal environment. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors employ path analysis to further examine the indirect effects of concentration on audit quality through audit fees. The sample consists of 12,334 Chinese firm-year observations from 2001-2011. Audit market concentration is measured at the city level as the market shares of the local top 4 audit firms and two Herfindahl indexes of audit fees earned from listed clients of the local top 4 and all audit firms in a city-year grouping, respectively.

    Findings:
    • The authors’ findings support the claim that concentration influences audit fees; furthermore, the positive effects of concentration on audit fees is consistent with clients having a limited choice of audit service suppliers and audit firms having greater market power in concentrated audit markets. The increased market power reduces auditors’ fear of client loss and allows them to charge higher fees.
    • The authors’ findings suggest that audit market concentration has no significant overall effect on client earnings quality.
    • The authors’ findings support the notion that concentration results in poor audit quality through auditor overconfidence and complacency.
    • The authors find that concentration increases audit fees and such increases in turn improve earnings quality, suggesting that when the audit market becomes more concentrated, auditors with increased market power become less lenient with clients and charge higher fees to devote more resources and effort to audit tasks, leading to higher audit quality.
    • The authors’ findings suggest that auditors are less likely to issue modified audit opinions when the market becomes more concentrated.
    • The authors find that in concentrated audit markets auditors have greater market power and lower cost of tell the truth and can charge higher audit fees to devote more resources and efforts to the audits that they carry out.
    Category:
    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    The Volatility of Other Comprehensive Income and Audit Fees
    research summary posted July 18, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.06 Audit Fees and Fee Negotiations in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    The Volatility of Other Comprehensive Income and Audit Fees
    Practical Implications:

    This paper asks whether auditors recognize the volatility of OCI and incorporate it into pricing of audits.  They find that audit fees do reflect changes in OCI and that these changes reflect various risk factors associated with OCI.  The findings suggest that auditors already recognize the difficulty in assessing value of fair value items which run through OCI—reinforcing regulator concerns about fair value valuation.

    Citation:

    Huang, H., S. Lin, K. Raghunandan. 2016. The Volatility of Other Comprehensive Income and Audit Fees. Accounting Horizons 30 (2): 195-210.

    Keywords:
    Other comprehensive income; audit fees; fair value audits
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study investigates whether auditors incorporate volatility in other comprehensive income (OCI) into fees.  Increased attention from standard setters, both domestically and internationally, on fair value accounting has increased auditor focus on fair value financial instruments.  Fluctuations in many of these assets are reflected in OCI, thus volatility in OCI may indeed influence the auditor’s inherent risk assessment.  Other studies have shown that investors do not seem to accurately incorporate volatility of OCI in pricing, so it is an empirical question whether auditors can incorporate it into their risk assessment.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors use a sample of S&P 500 firms from 2002 to 2006 and supplement this sample with a comparable sample from 2008 to reinforce their findings.  Data on OCI was hand collected from the SEC’s EDGAR database and combined with financial information from Compustat and auditor data from Audit Analytics.  The authors exclude financial sector firms, resulting in a final sample of 1,858 firm-year observations.

    Findings:

    The authors find:

    • A positive relationship between volatility in OCI volatility and audit fees, with or without controlling for other factors that influence audit fees.
    • Changes in OCI have predictive power for audit fees above and beyond changes in net income, suggesting items that flow through OCI are incorporated into audit pricing.
    • When breaking out OCI volatility into its components, the authors find audit fees incorporate volatility in foreign currency translation, available-for-sale investments, and minimum pension liabilities.  Audit fees increase as volatility of these items increases.
    • Audit fees have a negative relationship with volatility of cash flow hedges.  These hedges offset risk in the underlying prices; therefore, volatility in the hedges is indicative of firms successfully hedging against risk.  These firms pay lower audit fees.
    Category:
    Client Acceptance and Continuance, Engagement Management
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Audit Fees & Fee Negotiations
  • Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips
    Spatial Competition at the Intersection of the Large and...
    research summary posted June 15, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.01 Audit Fee Decisions, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.08 Impact of Office Size in Auditing Section Research Summary Database > Auditing Section Research Summaries Space public
    Title:
    Spatial Competition at the Intersection of the Large and Small Audit Firm Markets
    Practical Implications:

     This study illustrates new measures of spatial competition that incorporate the separate and distinct effects of competition within and between the large and small audit markets. This study also provides evidence that the pricing in the large firm market segment is affected by competitive pressure from small audit firms; furthermore, the study provides evidence of a differentiation premium that small audit firms are able to obtain by being perceived as competing in a bigger league than other small audit firms. Finally, the study contributes by examining measures of competition beyond the Herfindahl index in the audit firm market.

    Citation:

    Bills, K.L. and N.M. Stephens. 2016. Spatial Competition at the Intersection of the Large and Small Audit Firm Markets. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (1): 23-45.

    Keywords:
    spatial competition, market for audit services, market space, differentiation, small audit market
    Purpose of the Study:

    Research in the past including a study performed by the Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) of the United States suggest that the large and small audit firm markets are two distinct markets in many respects; however, prior research also suggests that there is a component of the small audit firm market that competes for clients directly with firms operating in the large audit firm market.  Within this study, the authors create measures of competition that take into account these two distinct markets and how their interaction may affect the competitive positions of the players in both markets.  This is achieved by separately examining spatial competition within and between audit firms in both the large and small audit firm markets. Because the Department of the Treasury has emphasized the importance of small audit firms becoming viable suppliers for companies typically served by the large audit firm market, there is a need for a closer look at the smaller audit firm market and how its members can potentially compete with larger audit firms. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Data from Audit Analytics and Compustat was used to perform the tests of the hypotheses. Two separate samples were constructed– one sample including large audit firm clients and another sample including small audit firm clients. Large audit firms are defined as the Big 4 audit firms, and small audit firms are defined as all non-Big 4 audit firms.

    Findings:
    • The authors find that the audit fee large audit firms charge decreases with the success of small audit firms at aligning themselves with the large firms in their market space.
    • The authors’ findings suggest that spatial competition from small audit firms significantly impacts the large audit firm market; in fact, spatial competition from small audit firms has a greater effect on the large audit firm market than spatial competition from other large audit firms.
    • The authors find that small audit firms that enter the large audit firm market and are perceived as being competitors with the Big 4 firms can improve their competitive positions as compared to other small audit firms.
    • The authors find that small audit firms benefit from obtaining market shares similar to those of large audit firms, whereas large audit firms are harmed by the added competition.
    • The authors find that distance from the closest competitors by market share is an important factor of competition in the small audit firm market; however, it is important to determine distance from whom, large audit firm or small audit firm, as they have opposite signs. 
    Category:
    Audit Team Composition, Client Acceptance and Continuance
    Sub-category:
    Audit Fee Decisions, Impact of Office Size