Practitioner summary “Should PCAOB Disciplinary Proceedings Be Made Public? Evidence from Sanctions against a Big 4 Auditor”

Carol Callaway Dee,Ayalew Lulseged,and Tianming Zhang
Current Issues in Auditing, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 18-24

In our paper “Client Stock Market Reaction to PCAOB Sanctions against a Big 4 Auditor” (Dee et al. 2011), we examine stock price effects for clients of a Big 4 audit firm when news of sanctions imposed by the PCAOB against the audit firm was made public. These PCAOB penalties were the first against a Big 4 auditor, and they revealed information about quality-control problems at the audit firm that were not publicly known until the sanctions were announced. Our analysis of stock prices suggests that investors in clients of the penalized Big 4 firm reevaluated their perceptions of the quality of the firm’s audit work after learning of the sanctions. The negative stock price effects for the firm’s clients were consistent with investors inferring that the financial statements were of lower quality. In the paper, we conclude that investors find information about PCAOB sanctions against audit firms to be relevant in assessing audit quality and use that information in setting stock prices for audit firms’ clients. This finding has relevance for the debate on the proposed legislation in Congress (H.R. 3503), which would allow the PCAOB to disclose proceedings against auditors before the investigations are concluded. Our results suggest that, although investors may find early disclosure of this information useful, public disclosure of Board disciplinary proceedings before they are completed could unfairly harm an audit firm’s reputation if the firm is ultimately vindicated of wrongdoing.