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Do External Auditors Perform a Corporate Governance Role in Emerging Markets? Evidence from East Asia

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  • Joseph P. H. Fan
  • T.J. Wong

Abstract

In emerging markets, the concentration of corporate ownership has created agency conflicts between controlling owners and minority shareholders. Conventional corporate control mechanisms such as boards of directors and takeovers are typically weak in containing the agency problem. This study examines whether external independent auditors could be employed as monitors and as bonding mechanisms to alleviate the agency conflict. Using a broad sample of firms from eight East Asian economies, we document that firms are more likely to employ Big Five auditors when they are more subject to the agency problem imbedded in their ultimate ownership structure. One possible reason that this documented relation between auditor choice and the agency problem is more evident than the inconsistent results using U.S. and U.K. data is that alternative governance mechanisms are limited in East Asia. In addition, among East Asian auditees subject to the agency problem, Big Five auditors charge a higher fee and set a lower audit modification threshold while non-Big Five auditors do not. Taken together, the evidence suggests that Big Five auditors in emerging markets do have a corporate governance role.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph P. H. Fan & T.J. Wong, 2001. "Do External Auditors Perform a Corporate Governance Role in Emerging Markets? Evidence from East Asia," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 400, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2001-400
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    References listed on IDEAS

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