Auditor Choice and Its Implications for Group-Affiliated Firms
47 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 21, 2015
We examine which of two opposing financial reporting incentives that group-affiliated firms experience shapes their accounting transparency evident in auditor choice. In one direction, complex group structure and intra-group transactions enable controlling shareholders to pursue diversionary activities that they later hide by distorting reported earnings. In the other direction, as outside investors price protect against potential expropriation, controlling shareholders may be eager to improve financial reporting quality in order to alleviate agency costs. To empirically clarify whether group affiliation affects company insiders’ incentives to address minority shareholders’ concerns over agency costs, we examine auditor selection of group firms relative to stand-alone firms. In comparison to non-group firms, our evidence implies that group firms are more likely to appoint Top 10 audit firms in China, especially when their controlling shareholders have stronger incentives to improve external monitoring of the financial reporting process. After isolating group firms, we find that the presence of a Top 10 auditor translates into higher earnings and disclosure quality, higher valuation implications for related-party transactions, and cheaper equity financing, implying that these firms benefit from engaging a high-quality auditor. In additional analysis consistent with our predictions, we find that group firms that are Top 10 clients pay higher audit fees and their controlling shareholders are more constrained against meeting earnings benchmarks through intra-group transactions and siphoning corporate resources at the expense of minority investors. Collectively, our evidence supports the narrative that insiders in firms belonging to business groups weigh the costs and benefits stemming from auditor choice.
Keywords: business group, auditor selection, accounting transparency, related-party transactions
JEL Classification: G32, G34, M41, M42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation