This study compares the audit quality of Arthur Andersen with that of the Big 4 accounting firms. An expanded indicator of audit quality is developed based on the law of business misconduct literature and the legal process literature. A representation of audit quality is derived from an analysis of the legal actions initiated against these five large public accounting firms from 1996 to 2004. The legal action was partitioned into three year periods. In the first period, Arthur Andersen and the Big 4 evidenced no quality differential. In the second and third periods, the Big 4, in aggregate, rated higher on the audit quality indicator than did Andersen. The robustness of these findings is substantiated using multiple logistic regression and sensitivity analysis. When the individual firms are compared with Andersen, all four evidenced higher audit quality; three of the firms are significantly higher. This suggests that Andersen represents an outlier within the audit population. However, the analysis also indicates that overall audit quality declined in the period immediately following the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. This suggests that the Sarbanes‐Oxley Act provisions directed toward remedying auditing deficiencies is justified and not an overreaction to a “few bad apples.”

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