Auditor Fees Around Dismissals and Resignations: Additional Evidence
Paul A. Griffin
University of California, Davis - Graduate School of Management
David H. Lont
University of Otago - Department of Accountancy and Finance
April 30, 2008
This paper offers new findings on the relation between auditor dismissals and resignations and audit fees. Unlike the prior research, which studies the fees of auditors after an auditor change, we focus on audit fees before an auditor change. Our evidence shows that incumbent auditors charge unusually higher fees at least one year prior to an auditor change event. The existence of unusual fee adjustments by incumbents may serve as a precursor of such events.
In the case of dismissals, we reason that if clients perceive the presence of unusually higher audit fees as an indication that their costs are excessive, this should prompt a switch in auditors. We find evidence consistent with this view. For resignations, we interpret unusually higher incumbent fees not as a sign of client-perceived excess but as a signal by auditors that resignation companies reflect higher levels of audit risk or liability, which incumbents capture as additional fees. Eventually, however, the additional fees are insufficient, and the auditor resigns.
While our results are based mostly on the audit fee disclosures after Sarbanes-Oxley, we control for and find similar results for periods not dominated by the legislation. Our results are similar for each of the Big 4 firms.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 50
Keywords: Dismissals, Resignations, Audit fees, Incumbent auditor fee adjustments
JEL Classification: C30, G38, K22, L84, M41, M49working papers series
Date posted: April 29, 2008
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