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A Theory of Certification with an Application to the Market for Auditing Services


  • Hvide, Hans K.

    () (Dept. of Finance and Management Science, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration)


The paper develops a theory which attempts to understand segmentation and fee-setting in certification markets. The basis for the theory is that certifiers offer differentiated tests; for a given object it may be more difficult to pass the test of certifier i than the test of certifier j. Given the test standards, certifiers compete for customers via their fee-setting. In equilibrium, sellers with low unobservable quality self-select to a lenient test and sellers with high unobservable quality self-select to a stricter test. Moreover, sellers selecting an easy test pay a lower (endogenous) certification fee than sellers selecting a difficult test. As a test of the theory, I analyze Norwegian panel data to investigate whether firms affilated with a cheaper or a non-Big 5 auditor have worse (unobservable) characteristics, measured by subsequent drops in sales, assets or equity. The empirical analysis supports the theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Hvide, Hans K., 2004. "A Theory of Certification with an Application to the Market for Auditing Services," Discussion Papers 2004/10, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Business and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:nhhfms:2004_010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
    2. Avner Shaked & John Sutton, 1982. "Relaxing Price Competition Through Product Differentiation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(1), pages 3-13.
    3. Weiss, Andrew, 1983. "A Sorting-cum-Learning Model of Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 420-442, June.
    4. Titman, Sheridan & Trueman, Brett, 1986. "Information quality and the valuation of new issues," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 159-172, June.
    5. Ottaviani, Marco & Sorensen, Peter Norman, 2006. "Professional advice," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 126(1), pages 120-142, January.
    6. Johnson, W. Bruce & Lys, Thomas, 1990. "The market for audit services : Evidence from voluntary auditor changes," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1-3), pages 281-308, January.
    7. Puri, Manju, 1996. "Commercial banks in investment banking Conflict of interest or certification role?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 373-401, March.
    8. Puri, Manju, 1999. "Commercial banks as underwriters: implications for the going public process," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 133-163, October.
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    More about this item


    Adverse Selection; Auditing; Investment Banking; Oligopoly theory; Signaling;

    JEL classification:

    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • M42 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Auditing


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