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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Auditor size and audit quality revisited : the role of market size and legal environment Sirois, Louis-Philippe


The objective of this thesis is to revisit the notion of audit quality and investigate how it is related to auditor size and the structure of the auditing industry. Specifically, I propose a model of audit firm competition where both audit quality and auditor size are endogenous and predict how market characteristics, namely market size and investor protection regime, affect the structure of the auditing industry and differences between Big-4 and Non-Big-4 audit quality and fees. I show that Big-4 audit firms compete mostly on audit value (i.e., quality and price) through investments in audit technology, the level of which is increasing in both market size and investor protection. Consistent with my predictions, empirical results for the U.S. audit market, where investor protection is held constant across local markets, confirm that the audit industry is characterised as a natural oligopoly dominated by the higher quality Big-4 audit firms. More importantly, I find that Big-4 audit value is increasing in market size. In particular, Big-4 audit quality, relative to Non-Big-4 audits is constant in market size while Big-4 audit fee premium is decreasing in market size. I also present detailed hypotheses adapted to a cross-country setting to empirically evaluate the impact of investor protection regimes on characteristics of the audit industry and the audit product. Although I leave to future research actual empirical testing, preliminary evidence reviewed from other studies generally supports my hypotheses. My thesis has direct policy implications as it provides key insights about the audit industry, how audit firms compete and how the industry evolves. Taken together, my results imply that the audit industry is naturally concentrated yet remains overall competitive. That is, Big-4 audit quality and fees are not adversely affected, thus far, by the high level of auditor concentration and Big-4 market power. Accordingly, recent concerns about high auditor concentration, although warranted, may be overstated.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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