We analyze theoretically and empirically the effect of preference policies, which favor some auditors over others for reasons unrelated to the audit. For example, an auditee may prefer minority-owned auditors, all else equal. We construct an analytical model of the competitive bidding process for audit services. We show that preference policies can sometimes improve the audit procurement process by encouraging price concessions from non-preferenced auditors. We test model predictions in a setting amenable to empirical identification of preference; many municipalities prefer local firms over more distant firms. We find strong evidence of local preference, with local firms earning a 13 percent fee premium over non-local firms. We show that audit fees depend not only on the winning firm's capabilities but also crucially on the winning firm's incremental capabilities over the next best alternative. Lastly, we identify conditions under which preference policies benefit audit procurement outcomes. JEL Classification: M42, D44, M48, H83 Key words: audit markets, auditor selection, competitive bidding, local preference
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