Informed by Perceptual Deterrence Theory, we conduct multiple experiments to investigate when and how auditor actions can help deter manager opportunism. In Study 1A we find that managers are less likely to use real earnings management (REM) when they expect auditors to both increase scrutiny and communicate their observations to the board. However, this effect occurs only when managers' operational decisions are inconsistent (versus consistent) with peer behavior. Study 1B findings suggest that increased auditor scrutiny alone (without auditor-board communication) is not likely to deter REM. In Study 2, we find that increased auditor scrutiny with communication to the board effectively deters both accruals-based earnings management (AEM) and REM, reducing the total level of manager opportunism. However, without communication, increased auditor scrutiny deters AEM, but also induces more REM. Our findings highlight the importance of auditor-board communication and demonstrate how auditor actions can contribute to the deterrence of manager opportunism.

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