Auditor Fees, Abnormal Fees and Audit Quality Before and after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
36 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2005
Date Written: February 7, 2005
Our study examines fees paid to auditors for audit and non-audit services during the period 2000 to 2003. We document a statistically significant positive association between audit fees and the absolute value of performance-adjusted discretionary accruals over all years. We also identify a significant positive association between non-audit fees and discretionary accruals in years 2000 and 2001, but no such association in later years (after passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act). This lack of association in 2002 and 2003 may be a result of legislation that limits the types of non-auditing services that auditors can provide to audit clients. To address the potential impact of fee composition and client importance on auditor independence, we extend our empirical analysis by incorporating predictions of abnormal audit and non-audit fees. We derive abnormal fees using a fee estimation model drawn from prior literature. We find evidence consistent with the view that clients with higher abnormal fees are more apt to exert influence on their auditors, which in turn may lead to a breach in auditor independence. Overall, our results are most consistent with economic bonding being the primary determinant of auditor behavior.
Keywords: Audit fees, non-audit fees, discretionary accruals, independence
JEL Classification: M4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation