Do Audit Firms Care about Media Coverage? An Investigation of Audit Firm Response to News Coverage
48 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2020 Last revised: 17 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 28, 2020
We examine how auditors respond to news coverage of their firm and evaluate the extent to which national news outlets function as a watchdog over audit firms. We find that when media coverage includes issues specific to the audit opinion (i.e., restatements, adverse internal control opinions, fraud), audit firms respond by increasing audit attention (increased fees, reporting delay, and late filings). We find that this is amplified among clients with issues similar to those discussed in the media coverage. In contrast, we find that when news coverage does not relate to audit reporting decisions, firms decrease fees and issue audit opinions sooner. Additional analyses reveal that audit firms respond to high levels of news coverage at peer firms, suggesting that firms try to preemptively manage their reputation even when they are not under direct media scrutiny, and negative news has significant costs for firms’ client growth and retention. Collectively, our evidence suggests that the news media functions as an effective informal oversight mechanism of auditing firms by driving increased auditor attention and improved audit quality.
Keywords: Accounting News, Auditor Reputation, Big 4, Media Coverage
JEL Classification: M41, M42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation