How do institutions affect auditor reporting behavior? : Empirical evidence from China

  • Yang AN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


It is well documented in cross-country research that institutions, both economic and political, affect the reporting behavior of auditors and audit services. These findings are based on the assumption that institutions vary across countries but are more homogeneous within a country. However, cross-country research suffers from the problems of country-specific cultures, accounting rules, and regulations, and can be criticized for the use of small sample sizes, potential endogeneity, and the correlation of omitted variables. This study overcomes these problems by engaging in within-country research. Specifically, this study examines how variations in the institutional environment within China affect auditor reporting behavior. Since the initiation of the open door policy in the early 1980s, China’s institutional environment has, from both the economic and political perspectives, undergone different development stages that have moved east to west across the provinces. This thesis takes advantage of these special institutional characteristics in China to test the influence of institutions on auditor reporting behavior within a single country.

Based on the NERI Index (2001) of Marketization (NIM) (Fan and Wang, 2003), I classify China’s 30 provinces into “good” and “poor” institutional regions. In poor regions, the local economy is more influenced by local governments, and suffers from an underdeveloped credit market and a poorer legal environment. Taking into account the close relationship between local governments and local government-owned companies, the absolute power of resource allocation by governments, and the low litigation risk, I hypothesize that auditors in poor institutional regions tend to be lenient to local government-owned companies by issuing them with more unqualified initial and subsequent audit opinions.

I collected 8,039 firm-year observations from the Chinese stock market, the results from which provide evidence to support the hypotheses. This study extends the previous research of Chan, Lin and Mo (2006) by revealing that the lenient reporting behavior of local auditors toward local government-owned companies is more prevalent in regions with a poor institutional environment. The findings of this thesis have rich implications for policy-makers and regulators in China. One implication is that institutional improvement is a key factor in the creation of a quality audit profession, even when uniform national auditing regulations have been established.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Accountancy
SupervisorZhenpin Kenny LIN (Supervisor) & Koon Hung CHAN (Supervisor)

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