Financial Statement Misstatements, Auditor Litigation, and Subsequent Auditor Behavior
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This paper examines the occurrence and outcome of auditor litigation related to financial statement misstatements and the effect of auditor misstatement-based litigation on subsequent auditor behavior. The study is motivated by recent calls to limit auditor legal liability and the need to examine the ability of litigation to deter non-Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) financial reporting. I find that misstatement severity is the primary driver of auditor litigation. Specifically, I find that auditor misstatement-based litigation is more likely when the misstatement is associated with fraud, a regulatory investigation, a larger stock price decline, and/or a greater number of accounting application [i.e., Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)/GAAP) failures. In addition, I find that auditor misstatement-based litigation is more likely to occur when the misstatement is associated with engagement fees that consist of a greater magnitude or a greater proportion of non-audit service fees. Further, I find that misstatement severity and the size of the plaintiffs? claims are the primary drivers of auditor settlements resulting from misstatement-based litigation. Specifically, I find that an auditor settlement resulting from misstatement-based litigation is more likely to occur when the misstatement is associated with fraud, a greater amount of alleged income or equity inflation over the class action time period, and/or a larger alleged percentage drop in share price over the class action time period. With respect to subsequent auditor behavior, I find evidence that auditor litigation results in more conservative subsequent auditor behavior across a litigated auditor?s office-wide client portfolio (that excludes the litigated client). Specifically, in the year following auditor litigation, I find evidence that litigation results in increased auditor constraint of client-reported positive and signed discretionary accruals, as well as longer audit report lags.
Subjectfinancial statement misstatements
audit report lag
Schmidt, Jaime J. (2009). Financial Statement Misstatements, Auditor Litigation, and Subsequent Auditor Behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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