The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of higher-quality auditors on corporate risk-taking.
Agency theory suggests that managers have incentives to avoid risk in the interests of perquisite consumption and self-preservation, while investors prefer that managers invest in all projects with a positive net present value, i.e. projects that generally increase corporate risk. Empirical literature finds that managerial risk-aversion is mitigated (and firm value enhanced) when investor protection is higher. The authors examine whether higher-quality auditing is one such mechanism to encourage shareholder-focused corporate risk-taking. They model measures of corporate risk as a function of whether a firm is audited by an industry specialist or not, controlling specifically for accounting quality. They then examine the incremental effect of higher-quality audits on other forms of external monitoring (analyst coverage and institutional holdings) for corporate risk.
Using a sample from 2003 to 2007, the authors document a positive relationship between local-level audit industry specialization and both the standard deviation of annual stock returns and research and development expenditures (their measures of corporate risk-taking). They then find the effect is mitigated when firms have alternative external monitoring, in the form of either higher analyst coverage or greater institutional holdings.
Given the nature of the question the authors ask, particularly in the context of the auditor–client relationship, a potential limitation is the difficulty in assigning causation. Nonetheless, this study underscores the importance of auditors as an effective mechanism for monitoring corporate managers.
This study provides novel evidence that auditors affect managerial decision making beyond a simple effect on financial statements, and should be of interest to boards of directors, regulators and investors.
This manuscript benefited from participants at the 2012 American Accounting Association Annual Meeting and workshop participants at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. The authors also acknowledge the helpful comments of David Smith, Paul Tanyi, Linda Ruchala and Kathleen Farrell.
L. Hoelscher, J. and E. Seavey, S. (2014), "Auditor industry specialization and corporate risk-taking", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 29 No. 7, pp. 596-620. https://doi.org/10.1108/MAJ-02-2014-1000Download as .RIS
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