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Repeat offenders: examining cases of multiple years of internal control weaknesses

Kathleen Bakarich (Department of Accounting, Taxation and Legal Studies in Business, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, USA)
Devon Baranek (Department of Accountancy, Rider University, Flemington, New Jersey, USA)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 31 January 2020

Issue publication date: 1 April 2020




This study aims to identify characteristics of firms reporting multiple years of material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting (MWICFR), labeled “Repeat Offenders”, and examine their characteristics and the types of material weaknesses they report using both broad and COSO-based classification schemes. The analysis compares these firms with firms reporting only one year of MWICFR and examines the differences between Repeat Offenders reporting consecutive and non-consecutive weaknesses.


Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted on a sample of 1,793 firm-year observations, split into Repeat Offenders and non-Repeat Offenders, and collected from AuditAnalytics and Compustat from 2007 to 2015.


On average, 40% of adverse opinions in ICFR each year can be attributed to Repeat Offenders. Compared to one-time MWICFR firms, Repeat Offenders are significantly more likely to report general material weaknesses and, within the COSO framework, are significantly more likely to report issues with Segregation of Duties and Processes and Procedures. Repeat Offenders reporting consecutive years of MWICFR are significantly more likely to have general weaknesses than non-consecutive Repeat Offenders and are also significantly more likely to report issues with Segregation of Duties and Personnel.

Research limitations/implications

Prior studies have examined unremediated ICFR issues in the periods immediately following SOX implementation. This study extends this literature with a longer, more current sample period, focusing on both broad and COSO-specific control issues, as well as examining consecutive and non-consecutive MWICFR and firms with more than two years of MWICFR.


This study underpins recent Securities and Exchange Commission and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board concerns regarding pervasive ICFR issues. This study identifies some of the characteristics of firms associated with weaker ICFR and pinpoints more specific areas within internal controls that frequently lead to adverse opinions.



This research was supported by a Summer Research Grant from the Frank G.Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. We thank the editor and reviewers for theirinsightful suggestions and comments as well as participants at the American AccountingAssociation Northeast Region meeting for their helpful observations.


Bakarich, K. and Baranek, D. (2020), "Repeat offenders: examining cases of multiple years of internal control weaknesses", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 499-520.



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