The impact of hedge fund activism on audit pricing

Huimin (Amy) Chen, Bill B. Francis, Yinjie (Victor) Shen, Qiang Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

The extant literature focuses on the economic effect of significant changes that activist hedge funds enact, but shows mixed findings about the effect on the information environment. We investigate the informational effect on the third party — namely, the auditor — and argue that the potential significant changes in target firms heighten the complexity and uncertainty of the information environment, potentially increasing the workload or risk for auditors. We find that auditors react to hedge fund intervention by increasing audit fees. This relationship holds in a battery of identification tests that address endogeneity, including difference-in-differences analysis with propensity score matching, coarsened exact matching, entropy balancing, and a placebo test. Further analysis supports our conjecture that information complexity and uncertainty increase in target firms, leading to higher audit fees. Moreover, auditors increase their effort after intervention but do not seem to incur greater audit risk. This finding suggests that the information risk arising from the potential post-intervention changes is within auditors’ threshold of risk tolerance, consistent with the corporate governance effect of hedge fund activism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101264
JournalBritish Accounting Review
Volume56
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Audit fees
  • Auditors
  • Financial reporting complexity
  • Hedge fund activism
  • Information uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting

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