Title

Forced auditor change, industry specialization and audit fees

Source of Publication

Managerial Auditing Journal

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the effect of industry specialization on the absorption and competitive pricing (or lack thereof) of audits of large Andersen clients (S&P 1500 companies) who switched to the remaining Big 4 international accounting firms in 2002 due to the demise of Arthur Andersen LLP (Andersen). Did the audit clients pay a premium or discount in audit fees to their new auditor who specialized in their industry? Design/methodology/approach: Ordinary least squares regression is used to test hypothesis of a positive association between industry specialization and audit fees charged to former Andersen's audit clients in 2002 following Andersen's demise. This study provides more control over size effects by design. Test variables are constructed based on national market share of audit fees within an industry. Logistic regression is used to examine the likelihood of choosing new auditor that is an industry specialist. Findings: Results support hypothesis, consistent with auditor differentiation explanation. Proportion of clients that had engaged an industry specialist in 2001 increased from 38 percent (84 clients) to 48 percent (105 clients) in 2002. No evidence of price-gouging in 2002 although clients who aligned with industry specialist paid a 23.2 percent premium in audit fees. Large clients lost bargaining power to negotiate lower fees. Findings are robust to the inclusion of additional alternative measures of company size. Research limitations/implications: Results of logistic regression analysis imply that large audit clients with former auditor of tarnished reputation, long auditor tenure and high leverage are more likely to switch to an industry specialist to possibly signal audit/financial reporting quality. Large sample companies may limit the ability to generalize findings to smaller companies. Practical implications: Mandatory audit firm rotation (currently being debated in the profession) will have costly effect on the pricing of Big 4 audits for companies wanting to signal audit and financial reporting quality to affect market perception, and large companies would likely lose their ability to bargain for lower audit fees. Originality/value: The paper focus on the alignment of Andersen clients and impact on audit fees with Big 4 industry specialists resulting from the sudden increase in audit market concentration. Prior to Andersen's collapse, evidence on the association of audit fees premium and industry specialists was mixed, and little attention has been given to the influence of auditor industry specialization on both audit fees and alignment of former Andersen clients with a Big 4 specialist. This paper fills that void. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Document Type

Article

First Page

708

Last Page

734

Publication Date

9-9-2013

DOI

10.1108/MAJ-11-2012-0779

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Winifred D. Scott, Zayed University
Willie E. Gist, Ohio University

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