SYNOPSIS

This study investigates whether auditors' going-concern modified opinion (GCO) decisions were less likely after the start of the recent “Global Financial Crisis” (GFC). Auditing regulators and the business press had complained that auditors did not provide adequate warning in their reports prior to many companies filing for bankruptcy during the GFC. Accordingly, we examine auditors' GCO opinions for financially stressed clients that subsequently entered into bankruptcy during the period from 2004 to 2010. We find that, after controlling for other factors related to GCOs, the propensity of auditors to issue a GCO prior to bankruptcy significantly increased after the onset of the GFC. Additional tests reveal similar results when we separately examine clients of the Big 4 and non-Big 4 firms, suggesting both sized firms significantly increased the likelihood of issuing a GCO to a subsequently bankrupt client after the start of the GFC. Our results should be of interest to regulators, investors, audit firms, academics, and standard setters as they evaluate U.S. auditor performance during the GFC, and in contemplation of changes to auditing standards as a result of the GFC.

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