Price Competition Within the Large Audit Firm Oligopoly: A Panel Data Analysis of Initial Engagements

Posted: 1 Oct 2003 Last revised: 4 Nov 2016

See all articles by Scott Whisenant

Scott Whisenant

University of Kansas

Michael Willenborg

University of Connecticut - Department of Accounting

Date Written: April 29, 2016

Abstract

We study audit pricing and quality for companies that switch from one BigN firm to another. In addition to present day policy interest in the competitiveness and quality of the large audit firm / public company market, and longstanding policy interest in the pricing and quality of initial audit engagements, our motivation stems from contrary predictions in the theoretical literature and mixed evidence in the empirical literature. We collect a series of balanced panel datasets of BigN auditees from the first eight years of disclosure of U.S. audit fees and estimate a series of fixed-effect regressions. We report evidence of economically significant discounting of initial audits for companies that switch among BigN firms but that audit fees then increase substantially for the second-year audit. To the extent restatements and going-concern opinions are adequate proxies, our results do not suggest differential audit quality for companies that pay lower audit fees when switching among BigN firms. Overall, our paper is the first to study BigN switching with a comprehensive sample that spans several years using a panel data design, to document economically significant amounts of initial audit fee discounts (that vary over time in a manner consistent with recent audit market changes and primarily vanish the very next year) and to examine the association between initial audit fee discounts and multiple proxies for audit quality.

Note: Previously titled "Pricing Initial Audit Engagements in U.S. Market: A Test of Competing Theories"

Keywords: audit pricing, lowballing, quasi-rents, audit quality, earnings quality

JEL Classification: M14, M49, D40, M47

Suggested Citation

Whisenant, Scott and Willenborg, Michael, Price Competition Within the Large Audit Firm Oligopoly: A Panel Data Analysis of Initial Engagements (April 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=452680 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.452680

Scott Whisenant (Contact Author)

University of Kansas ( email )

Capitol Federal Hall
1654 Naismith Dr.
Lawrence, KS 66045
United States
785-864-7577 (Phone)

Michael Willenborg

University of Connecticut - Department of Accounting ( email )

School of Business
Storrs, CT 06269
United States
860-486-3020 (Phone)
860-486-4838 (Fax)

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