SUMMARY

Research in information economics seeks to understand how the actions of one individual affect the decisions of related individuals. We examine this issue in the context of information contagion between audit offices in the same locality. Specifically, we investigate whether contagion among Big N audit offices in the same metropolitan statistical area (MSA) causes their client firms' financial reporting quality to correlate. We document a relation between overstatement of earnings for one firm (as evidenced by a subsequent restatement) and higher abnormal accruals for another firm in that same year, where both firms' auditors are located in the same MSA. The correlation in reporting quality is consistent with contagion in practices between auditors. We also find evidence that auditor competition is one channel through which information contagion occurs. The between-audit office contagion we document is incremental to within-audit office contagion documented by prior research. Our evidence is important in understanding additional factors related to the quality of auditing and financial reporting and thus should be relevant to audit committees, regulators attempting to improve audit quality, and stakeholders in general.

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