Audit market structure and audit pricing

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Extant literature finds mixed evidence on the association between audit market concentration and audit fees. We re-examine this issue using a large sample of U.S. audit clients covering 90 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) spanning 2000-2013. We find that audit market concentration is associated with significantly higher audit fees, consistent with the concerns of regulators and managers. We also find that increases in audit market concentration are associated with fewer initial engagement fee discounts (i.e., reduced lowballing), particularly for non-Big 4 clients. We reconcile our findings with those of prior research and find that our divergent findings are attributable to controls for MSA fixed effects. In supplemental analyses, we find that audit market concentration is associated with higher audit quality. We also find that concentration is associated with higher audit quality for first-year engagements, but only if the auditor does not lowball on the engagement. Our results are relevant to the ongoing debate regarding the consequences of increased concentration within the U.S. audit market (GAO 2003, 2008).

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Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.2308/acch-51603

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Accounting Horizons