SYNOPSIS

“Little r” restatements occur when a firm's immaterial errors accumulate to a material error in a given year. Unlike “Big R” restatements that must be reported through an SEC 8-K material event filing, little r restatements do not require an 8-K form or a withdrawal of the auditor opinion. This paper documents this previously unexamined form of restatement and analyzes the characteristics of the firms that have used this method of correcting accounting errors over the period 2009 through 2012. Contrary to concerns voiced by regulators and research agencies we find, in multivariate tests, that little r firms are generally more profitable, less complex, and show some evidence of stronger corporate governance and higher audit quality than Big R firms. Compared to non-revising or restating firms, little r firms have lower free cash flows, higher board expertise, higher CFO tenure, are less likely to use a specialist auditor, and less likely to have material weaknesses in their internal controls. We also find that the majority of little r firms do not include any discussion of why these little r's occurred. We discuss policy implications related to disclosure of little r revisions.

JEL Classifications: M41; M48; G38.

Data Availability: All data used in this study are publicly available from the sources indicated.

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