The Effects of Auditors’ Online Information Search Effort in the Settings of Regulatory Reviews and Business Combinations

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Copyright: Han, Miaodi
This thesis examines whether non-client companies’ online disclosures serve as an external information source for auditors and whether auditors’ searches for such information facilitate their audit process and influence the outcomes in various important corporate event settings, including regulatory reviews by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Specifically, I exploit the clickstream data from the SEC’s EDGAR system, which allows me to track audit firms’ access to public firms’ electronic filings to investigate the effects of auditors’ information searches on the outcomes of regulatory reviews and M&A. The first study examines the usefulness of non-client industry peer companies’ financial filings for auditors to resolve the SEC’s review process on their clients. I hypothesize and find that audit firms can facilitate the resolution of the SEC’s comment letters for their clients through the disclosure benchmarking strategy against their client’s industry peers. Further analyses suggest that this benchmarking effect on the resolution of the regulatory process operates through two economic channels related to regulatory risk and information endowment. In addition, I find a positive association between the auditor’s disclosure benchmarking of peer firms in the regulatory process and their client’s future financial reporting quality. These findings highlight the usefulness of industry peer firms’ filing information to auditors in the SEC review process and provide significant implications for managers, regulators, and auditors with regard to the review process. The second study investigates the effect of information search effort by the acquirer’s auditor on post-M&A audit quality. I predict and find greater M&A-related information search effort by the acquirer’s auditor through accessing the target firm’s filings is associated with better post-acquisition audit quality. This effect is more pronounced when the acquirer’s auditor has less M&A experience, when the target firm has a lower analyst following, and when the deal value is greater. Further evidence also shows the auditor information search effort is associated with better audit efficiency. These findings inform managers, audit firms, and other stakeholders by showing that the information search effort on the target firm’s filings by the acquirer’s auditor improves post-M&A audit quality, which has been an issue of concern to these stakeholders.
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty