Family firms, client importance, and auditor reporting behavior: evidence from China

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Purpose: This study aims to investigate whether auditors compromise their independence for economically important clients in family business settings. Design/methodology/approach: The authors empirically examine the research question based on China for the years 2011 to 2020. The dependent variable is the auditors’ propensity to issue modified audit opinions, which is a proxy for auditor independence. The authors use relative client audit fees as a proxy for client importance. To address endogeneity issues in the selection of family firms, the authors use the two-stage least squares regression model and, subsequently, the propensity score matching and Hausman firm fixed effect modeling. Findings: This study reveals that the propensity to issue modified audit opinions is positively correlated with client importance. Big-N auditors are more likely to issue modified audit opinions for their economically important family firm clients, whereas such evidence is not found for non-Big-N auditors. Results are consistent and robust to endogeneity test and sensitivity analysis. Originality/value: This study enriches the literature on auditor independence and the effect of family firms’ ownership structure factors on audit reporting behavior for their economically important clients. Findings may prove useful for managers and practitioners interested in family business.

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Meditari Accountancy Research



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