Perceived Auditor Independence and Audit Litigation: The Role of Nonaudit Services Fees
Forthcoming in The Accounting Review
54 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2011 Last revised: 3 Jan 2012
Date Written: December 30, 2011
This study investigates whether audit litigants act as if they believe jurors will associate auditor-provided nonaudit services (NAS) with impaired auditor independence, and thus substandard auditor performance. Using GAAP-based financial statement restatements disclosed from 2001 – 2007 as an indicator for audit failure, I find that the amount of nonaudit (NAS) fees and the ratio of NAS fees to total fees is positively associated with the likelihood that a restatement results in audit litigation. I also find that when plaintiff attorneys argue that auditor independence was impaired due to dependence on client fees and, in particular, NAS fees, restatement-related audit litigation is more likely to result in an auditor settlement and a larger amount of settlement. These results suggest that audit litigants act as if they believe NAS fees will strengthen the case against the auditor, and thus affect the court resolution if the lawsuit is taken to verdict.
Keywords: auditor independence, nonaudit services fees, audit litigation, auditor settlements, financial statement restatements
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