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The effect of managerial stock ownership on the relationship between material internal control weaknesses and audit fees

Santanu Mitra (Department of Accounting, Mike Ilitch School of Business, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Bikki Jaggi (Department of Accounting, Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)
Talal Al-Hayale (Department of Accounting, Odette School of Business, University of Windsor, Windsor, Canada)

Review of Accounting and Finance

ISSN: 1475-7702

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of the study is to examine the effect of managerial stock ownership on the relationship between material internal control weaknesses (ICW) and audit fees.


The paper uses multivariate regression analyses on a sample of 1,578 ICW and 1,578 pair-matched (based on both propensity score and managerial stock ownership) non-ICW firm observations for a period from 2004 to 2010 to investigate how managerial incentive at various stock ownership levels impacts the relationship between material ICW and audit fees.


For the firms with low managerial stock ownership (up to 5 per cent stockholdings), the authors find no significant effect of managerial ownership on the positive relationship between audit fees and ICW. However, the impact of managerial stock ownership on the relationship between ICW and audit fees is significantly positive when managerial ownership is medium, i.e. more than 5 per cent and less than or equal to 25 per cent stockholdings, and the managerial ownership effect is even higher when managerial stock ownership is high, i.e. more than 25 per cent stockholdings. The result is especially robust for the ICW firms with high managerial stock ownership (i.e. where managers hold more than 25 per cent equity stake in the firms). The additional analyses further show that this managerial ownership effect is more pronounced when the firms suffer from company-level material control weaknesses that have pervasive negative effect on financial reporting quality.

Research limitations/implications

The results imply that in a low managerial ownership firms with substantial misalignment between manager and shareholder incentives, managerial stock ownership has little effect on the ICW and audit fee relationship. But when managers’ ownership interest is at a high level, they are more prone to purchase higher-quality audit service to reduce the risk of financial misstatements due to material ICW, which results in higher audit fees. The results add to the audit fee literature by suggesting that managerial incentive at various ownership levels is a critical governance factor that impacts auditor’s fee structure especially when higher reporting risk exists due to material ICW.


Prior literature documents that there is some relationship between managerial attributes and earnings quality; however, there is no substantive empirical evidence on the effect of managerial stock ownership on audit pricing when client companies face higher risk of financial misreporting as a result of material ICW. In this study, the authors seek answers to these empirical questions and fill the gap in the literature.



Mitra, S., Jaggi, B. and Al-Hayale, T. (2017), "The effect of managerial stock ownership on the relationship between material internal control weaknesses and audit fees", Review of Accounting and Finance, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 239-259.



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