Essays examining the association between going concern audit opinions, subsequent earnings management and engagement office audit and reporting quality
This dissertation consists of two essays that examine the association between going concern audit opinions, subsequent earnings management and engagement office audit and reporting quality. Essay I (Chapter 1) examines the earnings management behavior of financially distressed firms following the receipt of a going concern opinion. The results indicate that financially distressed firms, unable to improve their financial condition through the manipulation of accounting accruals, report large magnitudes of negative discretionary and working capital accruals. As a result, these firms turn their attention to the manipulation of real operational activities. By engaging in various forms of real activity manipulation, financially distressed firms are able to reduce reported expenses, conserve cash, and most importantly, avoid bankruptcy and/or the receipt of a subsequent going concern opinion, despite being in financial distress. Essay II (Chapter 2) investigates whether audit quality and reporting accuracy is associated with engagement office propensity to issue going concern opinions. The findings from this study show clients of engagement offices with a high propensity to issue going concern audit opinions are associated with large magnitudes of income decreasing discretionary accruals, suggesting that these engagement offices require their clients to report more conservatively. The findings also show that these engagement offices' financial statement conservatism carries over to their financial reporting decision-making. The conservative reporting posture of these engagement offices leads them to issue going concern audit opinions to subsequently viable clients, leading to higher type I error rates. Overall, this dissertation contributes to the accounting literature addressing going concern audit reporting by creating two new variables that help to explain the association between the receipt of a prior going concern audit opinion and subsequent earnings management, and the association between engagement office propensity to issue going concern audit opinions and audit and reporting quality. The variables created could open a new stream of literature aimed at addressing earnings management behavior and choices following the receipt of a going concern opinion and also demonstrate that more attention should be directed to the characteristics of individual engagement offices because they are the ultimate determining factor of an audit firm's overall audit and reporting quality. Together, the studies show how important it is to analyze the effects of going concern audit reports and how they are associated with seemingly unrelated topics in accounting literature.