Changes in Big N Auditors’ Client Selection and Retention Strategies Over Time
62 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2018 Last revised: 18 Jun 2020
Date Written: July 17, 20
We examine changes over time in Big N auditors’ client selection and retention strategies, from 1970 to 2015, by client size and risk segments. We particularly focus on the period from 1997 to 2001, characterized by numerous tumultuous events that led to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). We find that Big N auditors shed en masse the smallest and riskiest clients during this tumultuous phase. Our results show that the initial impetus for the change in Big N’s client selection strategies at the dawn of the 21st century came from changes in the market conditions, not the demise of Arthur Andersen and the implementation of SOX, as concluded in prior literature. Those changes led to the current divide between the characteristics of Big N and non-Big N client segments that is taken for granted today. Our findings also shed light on the debate about the Big N association with audit quality. While we find existence of a Big N effect, we also find that this effect is highly correlated with, and appears and disappears with, changes in Big N’s client screening criteria.
Keywords: Competitive Structure, Public Companies, Oligopoly, Big N Audit Firms, Audit Risks, Audit quality, Dotcom Boom and Bust
JEL Classification: M4, M41, M49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation