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Discretionary Accruals and Auditor Behaviour in Code-Law Contexts: An Application to Failing Spanish Firms


  • Laura Arnedo Ajona
  • Fermin Lizarraga Dallo
  • Santiago Sanchez Alegria


This study examines the relationship between earnings management and auditor behaviour in the pre-bankrupt client segment of the Spanish audit market. As proxies for auditor behaviour, we use type of audit firm (Big N/non-Big N) and type of audit report. In contrast to the USA, audit reports in Spain often include modifications other than a going-concern opinion. This allows us to study the relationship in more detail than is possible with US data. The results of our study show that discretionary accruals are negatively related to going-concern opinions but are positively related to reports modified for reasons other than going-concern problems. However, unlike Butler et al. (Journal of Accounting and Economics, 37, pp. 139-165, 2004) the negative relationship is explained not by liquidity survival tactics but by auditor conservatism. We find this conservatism not only in the value of discretionary accruals but also in the qualifications that accompany a going concern. In these cases GAAP violations have a much greater income effect and a stronger relationship with the reversal of manipulation accumulated over the years than with the manipulation introduced during the last year. Finally, our results suggest that Big N differentiation in a code-law country is context-specific and depends on the business risk parameter of the 'audit risk model'. In particular, for high-risk firms, Big N auditors show a significantly lower level of discretionary accruals and a greater propensity to issue a going-concern opinion.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Arnedo Ajona & Fermin Lizarraga Dallo & Santiago Sanchez Alegria, 2008. "Discretionary Accruals and Auditor Behaviour in Code-Law Contexts: An Application to Failing Spanish Firms," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(4), pages 641-666.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:17:y:2008:i:4:p:641-666
    DOI: 10.1080/09638180802172479

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    Cited by:

    1. Katsuhiko Muramiya & Tomomi Takada, 2010. "Auditor Conservatism, Abnormal Accruals, and Going Concern Opinions," Discussion Papers 2010-64, Kobe University, Graduate School of Business Administration.

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