The Existence and Independence of Audit Committees in France
Posted: 2 Nov 2005
This paper uses an agency theory framework to investigate the determinants of audit committees in France. Empirical tests address a cross-sectional sample of 285 listed companies for the fiscal year 1997, which is two years after the first Viénot report recommending the creation of audit committees among listed companies. Multivariate analyses show that the existence of an audit committee, and the committee's independence, are both negatively correlated with insider ownership, consistent with the owner-manager agency theory that considers audit committees as devices aimed at strengthening the monitoring system, the quality of financial reporting and the whole corporate governance environment. The existence of an audit committee that complies with corporate governance recommendations (i.e., a minimum of three directors, all of whom are non-executive directors) also positively depends on leverage if the firm has a high-IOS. The quality of accounting numbers thus seems important in shareholder-debtholder relationships if lenders are potentially more exposed to default risk and expropriation mechanisms. However, this result might be sensitive to the IOS measurement and classification of high- and low-IOS companies. Finally, the presence of an audit committee is found to be positively correlated with board size, firm size, auditor reputation, and with the diversity of the company's operations.
Keywords: Agency Theory, Audit Committee, External Auditing, Corporate Governance, Investment Opportunity Set
JEL Classification: G30, M41
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