Auditors' Decision-Making Under Going-Concern Uncertainties in Low Litigation-Risk Environments: Evidence from Hong Kong
39 Pages Posted: 7 May 2006
This study examines the audit opinions issued by auditors in a low litigation-risk environment at a time of high economic uncertainty - that of Hong Kong in the period immediately after the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Empirical research using United States data has shown that, contrary to professional guidance which restricts the issue of "disclaimer of opinion" only to situations where existing uncertainties prevent the auditor from forming an opinion, auditors tend to use the "disclaimer" report (in the going concern context) to signal more extreme client firm's distress. In the high litigation risk environment of the US, researchers have attributed this tendency to the idea that "disclaimer of opinion" reports are used by auditors to provide some protection against potential legal liability. The results of this study provide evidence that, even in the low litigation-risk environment of Hong Kong, auditors still use "disclaimer" reports to signal more extreme client firm financial distress. Thus, the maintenance of a high litigation risk environment does not appear to be a necessary pre-requisite for high quality audits.
Keywords: Audit opinions, disclaimer of opinion, financial condition, litigation risk
JEL Classification: M29, N25, l85
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation