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Going Concern, Audit Errors, Financial Distress
A Type II audit error is defined as the failure of an auditor to issue a going concern audit opinion for a client that subsequently declares bankruptcy. Prior research studies have examined audit effectiveness (as measured by Type II audit errors) following the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and have generally found an increase in the auditors likelihood of issuing going-concern audit opinions. This increase in the auditors likelihood of issuing a going concern opinion post-Sarbanes-Oxley has been interpreted as an increase in the level of auditor conservatism. [For example, see Geiger et al. (2005) and Fargher and Jiang (2008)]. However, prior studies have often limited their analysis of going-concern audit effectiveness to firms that were already in financial distress, and have also failed to specifically address the extent to which varying levels of financial distress affects the auditors propensity to issue a going-concern opinion. This raises the main research questions addressed in this study: Does the relationship between financial distress and the probability of receiving a going-concern differ for distressed versus non-distressed firms, and more importantly, to what extent do varying levels of financial distress affect this relationship? We find that the relationship between financial distress and the probability of receiving a going-concern opinion is not linear, as is assumed in prior studies. Rather, we find that the positive relationship between financial distress and going-concern opinions applies only for certain levels of financial distress. These results have implications both in the interpretation of previous auditing research that has incorporated variables for financial distress, as well as implications for the design and interpretation of future research.