Don't Make Me Look Bad: How the Audit Market Penalizes Auditors for Doing Their Job

42 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2018 Last revised: 14 Sep 2019

Date Written: September 10, 2019


We examine the reputational impact of an audit office issuing internal control material weaknesses (ICMW). While prior research has examined how clients that receive an ICMW respond, we focus on clients that receive clean internal control opinions. We predict and find that audit offices that issue more ICMWs experience lower client and fee growth. We also find that the decrease is stronger when the ICMW is associated with a more visible client and when the ICMW is more severe. In supplemental analyses we find evidence consistent with clients avoiding auditors with a reputation for issuing ICMWs in their auditor selection decisions. Our results indicate that, on average, the market for audit services penalizes auditors for disclosing information critical of management in their audit opinions, which undermines the value of direct-to-investor auditor communications and provides insight into potential longer-term implications of the recently enacted expanded auditor’s report.

Keywords: audit market competition, auditor reputation, internal control weakness

Suggested Citation

Cowle, Elizabeth and Rowe, Stephen P., Don't Make Me Look Bad: How the Audit Market Penalizes Auditors for Doing Their Job (September 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Elizabeth Cowle

University of Arkansas ( email )

Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Stephen P. Rowe (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas ( email )

Business Bldg. 450
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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