Effects of SOX 404(b) Implementation on Audit Fees by SEC Filer Size Category
49 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017 Last revised: 12 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 12, 2017
This study provides novel information about the consequences of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) by documenting differential audit fee shocks accompanying implementation of SOX 404(b) internal control tests and reports for clients in three size categories: large accelerated filers (LAFs), small accelerated filers (SAFs), and non-accelerated filers (NAFs). First, we find that although both LAFs and SAFs experience audit fee shocks attributable to 404(b), SAFs on average experience relatively greater fee shocks than LAFs (107.8% percent versus 84.6% percent; Table 6). Second, even though NAFs are not subject to 404(b) procedures, we document a 42.7% percent fee shock for NAFs. Our interpretation is that 404(b) generated an immediate increase in demand for audit services with no corresponding sudden increase in supply of experienced audit personnel, enabling audit firms to charge higher prices for all filers including NAFs. We find that audit fee shocks attributable to 404(b) are positively associated with audit offices’ bargaining power relative to clients, and that the effect of offices’ bargaining power is strongest for SAFs and weakest for NAFs. Although higher audit fees (with client characteristics held constant) are often considered an indicator of better audit quality, we find virtually no evidence that the massive fee increases in 2004 are accompanied by improvements in same-year or next-year audit quality, measured as decreases in discretionary accruals and a lower likelihood of subsequent restatements of audited financial reports.
Keywords: SOX 404(B) Audit, Internal Controls, Audit Fees, Large Accelerated Filers, Small Accelerated Filers, Non-Accelerated Filers, Audit Office, Bargaining Power
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