Does the Disclosure of PCAOB Inspection Findings Increase Audit Firms' Litigation Exposure?
Forthcoming in The Accounting Review, https://doi.org/10.2308/TAR-2018-0151
Posted: 9 Jul 2020 Last revised: 13 Jul 2020
Date Written: May 20, 2020
We examine whether PCAOB inspection reports increase auditors' litigation risk. We find that inspection reports with audit deficiencies are positively associated with the number of lawsuits subsequently filed against the inspected auditor. These results are strongest when client-level lawsuit triggering events have already occurred and when PCAOB inspection content is arguably more persuasive. Importantly, these results pertain exclusively to triennially inspected audit firms for which the set of other publicly available signals of audit quality is limited. Furthermore, we do not argue that inspection reports in isolation trigger lawsuits. Instead, once events such as restatement announcements or bankruptcies create the potential for legal action against the auditor, inspection reports provide a public signal about past noncompliance with auditing standards. This signal likely increases lawyers' perceived strength of case against the auditor before the lawsuit is filed and before lawyers have access to the audit workpapers.
Keywords: PCAOB, PCAOB inspections, auditor litigation, audit regulation
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