Auditor choice, audit fees and internal governance in family firms

  • Shaohua HE

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


I study the role of auditing in mitigating agency concerns in family firms. Family firms face less severe agency problems due to the separation of ownership and control (Type 1) but more severe agency problems between controlling and noncontrolling shareholders (Type 2). As family firms make up a large part of most free enterprise economies it is important to examine these two agency problems with respect to auditor choice and audit effort. I find that family firms are more likely to choose a specialist auditor than nonfamily firms, consistent with the argument that family firms need to signal their non-expropriating behaviors by choosing specialist auditors. I further find that audit fees are lower in family firms compared to nonfamily firms, consistent with the hypothesis that the Type 1 agency conflict dominates the Type 2 agency conflict in the determination of audit effort and pricing. Moreover, consistent with prior literature that states that effective internal governance demands a quality auditor and more audit effort irrespective of ownership structure, I find that the positive association between family ownership and specialist auditor choice is stronger when internal governance is strong and the negative relation between audit fees and family ownership is weaker when the internal governance is strong. I find that these results on audit fees are robust to the use of alternative measures of concentrated influence such as CEO ownership, inside director ownership, and the presence of one or more founder directors. I also find that the effect of internal governance on audit fees is not limited to one or a few components of internal governance.
Date of Award2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Finance and Insurance
SupervisorMichael Arthur FIRTH (Supervisor)

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