The Association between Audit Quality and Abnormal Audit Fees
Using a sample of 9,820 firm-year observations over the 2000-2003 period, this paper examines whether, and how, audit quality proxied by unsigned discretionary accruals is associated with the abnormal audit fee, i.e., the difference between actual audit fee and auditors' expectation on the normal level of fee. The results of various regressions reveal that the association between the two is insignificant for the full sample, significantly positive for the subsample of clients with positive abnormal fees, and insignificantly negative for the subsample of clients with negative abnormal fees. The above results suggest that auditors' incentives to compromise audit quality differ systematically depending on whether the clients pay more than or less than the normal level of audit fees, which in turn leads to the audit fee-audit quality association being conditioned on the sign of abnormal audit fees. Our results are robust to a battery of sensitivity checks. Relevant implications of our results to policy makers and academic researchers are discussed.