ABSTRACT

The primary objective of this paper is to employ search engine technology to investigate the relationship between first-time going concern opinions (GCOs) and the financial viability of the GCO recipients using delisting as a criterion rather than bankruptcy. The paper also investigates the impact of client distress factors on auditors' propensity to issue GCOs. The search engine enables us to examine the entire population of 10-K filings from 1995 to 2015 and also to obtain delisting data, which are not readily available in commercial databases. Contrary to prior research, we find that the survival rate of first-time GCOs is much lower when we use delisting as a measure of financial viability. Around 26 percent of the companies that receive their first GCOs are delisted within a period of one year of the audit opinion date, and 50 percent of the companies that receive their first GCOs are delisted within a period of three years. The bankruptcy rate of first-time GCO companies within one year is around 9 percent. Such evidence may prove useful to the PCAOB's effort to expeditiously assess the intended benefit of GCOs. In addition, we find that the propensity of auditors to issue GCOs varies for each distress factor.

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