The Effects of Disclosing Critical Audit Matters and Auditor Tenure on Nonprofessional Investors’ Judgments

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Journal of Accounting and Public Policy

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In an effort to provide more meaningful information to financial statement users, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) recently adopted sweeping changes to the audit report, requiring the audit firm to disclose whether or not it identified a critical audit matter (CAM) and its tenure with the client. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to explore how nonprofessional investors’ judgments are influenced by (1) the relative effects of a CAM disclosure versus a disclosure that the auditor did not identify a CAM, and (2) the disclosure of the audit firm's tenure. We find that, relative to disclosing that no CAMs were identified, disclosing a CAM reduces investment intentions. We do not find a significant effect of tenure disclosure on investment intentions, despite evidence that participants attended to and understood the tenure manipulation. Concerning investors’ cognitive processes, we find that perceptions of both risk of material misstatement and management disclosure credibility mediate the effect of CAM disclosure on investment intentions, while perceived audit quality suppresses this effect. Our contributions include furthering the understanding of cognitive mechanisms through which CAM disclosure influences investment intentions, identifying a relatively unique setting in which perceptions of management disclosure credibility and audit quality move in opposite directions, and providing evidence that auditor tenure disclosure does not appear to affect investment intentions. Our findings should be of interest to regulators, auditors, issuers, and investors.


Audit quality; Auditor tenure; Critical audit matters; Management disclosure credibility; Nonprofessional investors





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