PCAOB Inspection Findings and Audit Firm Contesting
Accounting firms that perform audits of publicly-traded clients are subject to inspections by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). During the inspection process, the PCAOB allows audit firms to respond to the final draft of their report. This response is thereafter made public alongside the report on the PCAOB's website. This dissertation examines a specific aspect of the PCAOB inspection response, namely the audit firm contesting process. In this document, the term contesting is used to refer to when an audit firm provides a response to the inspection report defending its professional judgment and audit procedures.
In the first chapter, I examine the motivations of an audit firm's decision to contest PCAOB deficiency findings. I theorize and investigate three factors that may affect an audit firm's decision to proceed in that manner. These factors relate to: the audit firm's spatial competition; the firm's vested interest in the PCAOB inspection process; and the firm's concerns about future regulatory actions. In the second chapter, I examine the consequences of an audit firm's decision to contest PCAOB's deficiency findings. Specifically, I theorize that publicly-traded clients, audit firms, and the PCAOB may react subsequent to contesting. As such, I investigate the impact of contesting on: auditor dismissals, abnormal audit fees, audit effort, audit quality, and PCAOB's inspection rigor. Taken together, the findings from the tests documented in this dissertation fill a significant gap in the literature by finding evidence that audit firms are motivated to contest via regulatory concerns, and that both, clients and the PCAOB, react negatively to contesting events.