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Keywords:

  • Audit quality;
  • earnings management;
  • external audit;
  • regulation

The Italian Corporate Law Reform introduced a compulsory independent external auditor. In the past, only listed companies were required to be audited by external auditors, while non-listed companies were audited by the Board of Statutory Auditors regulated by the Italian Civil Code. The reform separated the responsibilities of administrative and financial auditing: statutory auditors were left in charge of administrative auditing, while financial auditing was assigned to external auditors, leaving a selected number of companies with the possibility of keeping the statutory auditors in charge of financial auditing as well. An empirical analysis was conducted on a sample of companies, aimed at assessing whether external auditors – compared to statutory auditors – generally granted a higher quality of auditing. To assess the quality of auditing, the reliability of annual reports was considered, examining the discretionary accrual levels.