We investigate the stock market's reaction to events leading up to the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board's (PCAOB) 2007 regulatory changes that reduced the scope of and documentation requirements for assessments of firms' internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR), as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The stated goal of these regulations was to reduce firms' and auditors' compliance costs with mandatory ICFR assessments, while maintaining the effectiveness of these assessments. We examine abnormal returns surrounding key dates leading to the passage of these regulations and offer two main findings. First, investors reacted negatively on key event dates, suggesting that investors viewed the regulations as likely to reduce financial reporting quality rather than to drive firm and audit efficiencies. Second, this negative market reaction is larger when ICFR effectiveness should matter most - when firms are more complex, have higher litigation risk, and greater fraud risk. In additional analysis, we find that restatements increase in the post-regulation time period, consistent with investors' concerns that the effect of the legislation would be a reduction in ICFR effectiveness. Overall, our results may imply that investors prefer stronger government regulation when it comes to the assessments of a firm's internal controls over financial reporting.

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