Do analysts know but not say? The case of goingconcern opinions
This study explores whether security analysts recognize firms’ going-concern problems and report appropriately to investors. We find that analysts signal their anticipation of the publication of a going-concern modified (GCM) audit report in two ways: 1) they downgrade more aggressively stock recommendations of GCM firms than stock recommendations of control firms as the event date approaches; 2) they are more likely to cease coverage of a GCM firm than a control firm over the one-year period prior to the GCM date. We further show that analysts react to the publication of an actual GCM audit report by stopping coverage of such firms immediately subsequent to the event disclosure. Our results suggest that analysts know that the future viability of GCM firms is jeopardized but do not say it clearly to retail investors, who constitute the main clientele of these firms. Consistent with the SEC concerns about analyst recommendations, we conclude that investors cannot rely solely on analyst recommendations since they are reluctant to report negatively (i.e, “underperform” or “sell”) even in this extreme bad news domain. We further conclude that analyst relative pessimism and coverage cessation is likely to be associated with negative expectations about firms’ future prospects.
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