The Effect of Enforcement on Auditor Conservatism

Posted: 26 Dec 2019 Last revised: 5 Aug 2020

Date Written: August 4, 2020


This paper provides a theoretical perspective on the effect of enforcement on auditor behavior and overall financial reporting quality. Therefore, we consider auditor conservatism as a strategy towards uncertainty, which might arise in highly discretionary accounting areas during the audit procedure.
Given a manipulating manager in equilibrium, we show that stricter enforcement increases both examination and conservative audit effort. While examination effort enhances the correctness of the audited accounting signals, auditor conservatism introduces a downward bias into the published reports as the auditor requires downward adjustments of the items that she could not verify during the first audit stage. Although a tightening of enforcement strictness prevents overstated reports, financial reporting quality is not necessarily increased. Stricter enforcement enhances the conformity of published reports with applicable accounting standards in environments of high manipulation risk. In environments of low manipulation risk, the relationship between examination and conservative effort determines whether increased enforcement strictness improves the overall financial reporting quality.

Keywords: auditor conservatism, audit quality, discretion, enforcement, financial reporting quality

JEL Classification: G38, M41, M42, M48

Suggested Citation

Peters-Olbrich, Mareike and Orthaus, Selina, The Effect of Enforcement on Auditor Conservatism (August 4, 2020). Available at SSRN:

Mareike Peters-Olbrich (Contact Author)

University of Cologne ( email )

Albertus Magnus Platz
Cologne, GA NRW 50923

Selina Orthaus

University of Cologne ( email )

Albertus Magnus Platz
Cologne, NRW 50923

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