The PCAOB conducts inspections of public company auditors to improve audit quality and build investors' confidence in the quality of financial reporting (PCAOB 2010f). While there is some evidence that the inspection reports could be improving actual audit quality (e.g., Gramling et al. 2011; Carcello et al. 2011), their impact on perceptions of audit quality remains largely unexplored. We investigate the effects of inspection reports, which consistently disseminate negative information in the form of audit deficiencies (and in some cases, quality control criticisms) on perceived audit quality and potential auditor switching. We report the results of an experiment in which 90 corporate executives considered one of three response patterns that firms typically offer across multiple inspection reports: consistently provide concessions, consistently provide denials, or provide mixed responses that consist of both concessions and denials. We find that PCAOB inspection reports generally decrease perceived audit quality, regardless of response pattern, which, in turn, is generally associated with an increased likelihood that executives will consider switching auditors. We offer implications for audit policy and research, including the possibility that, while PCAOB inspections could be improving actual audit quality, the reports could be imposing costs by reducing perceived audit quality and, in turn, increasing the likelihood of auditor changes.
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