Financial Distress, Investment Opportunity, and the Contagion Effect of Low Audit Quality: Evidence from China

Journal of Business Ethics 147 (3):565-593 (2018)
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Abstract

Using the presence of at least one client with net-income-increasing misstatement as a signal of low audit quality for an audit firm, this study examines the existence of the contagion effect of low audit quality and further investigates whether financial distress and investment opportunity as two firm-specific financial characteristics moderate the contagion effect of low audit quality. Using a sample of 7887 firm-year observations from the Chinese stock market over the period of 2007–2012, our study documents strong and consistent evidence to show that other clients audited by low-quality audit firms have significantly higher discretionary accruals ; financial distress reinforces the contagion effect of low audit quality; investment opportunity strengthens the contagion effect of low audit quality; the contagion effect of low audit quality persists over subsequent years for clients, and both financial distress and investment opportunity reinforce the contagion effect of misstatement to future misstatement. Above results are robust to a variety of sensitivity tests and are still valid after using the change model to control for the potential endogeneity. This study extends the previous literature on the contagion effect of low audit quality across audit firms.

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S. C. Lai
University of London