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

See all articles by Elizabeth N. Cowle

Elizabeth N. Cowle

University of Arkansas

Caleb Rawson

University of Arkansas - Department of Accounting

Stephen P. Rowe

University of Arkansas

Date Written: October 28, 2020

Abstract

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

Cowle, Elizabeth N. and Rawson, Caleb and Rowe, Stephen P., Do Audit Firms Care about Media Coverage? An Investigation of Audit Firm Response to News Coverage (October 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3720973 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3720973

Elizabeth N. Cowle (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas ( email )

Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Caleb Rawson

University of Arkansas - Department of Accounting ( email )

Business Bldg. 454
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Stephen P. Rowe

University of Arkansas ( email )

Business Bldg. 450
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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