How do Auditors Perceive Recognized vs. Disclosed Lease and Pension Obligations? Evidence from Fees and Going-Concern Opinions


Gopal V. Krishnan, College of Business and Economics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA. Email:


We examine the auditor perception of recognized vs. disclosed obligations as they relate to two key decisions auditors make: determining audit fees and whether to issue a going-concern opinion. We study two pairs of obligations – capital leases and operating leases and on-balance sheet and off-balance sheet pension obligations. We find that operating leases are positively and significantly associated with audit fees but not capital leases. We also find that on-balance sheet and off-balance sheet pension obligations have a similar association with audit fees. For going-concern decisions, auditors regard off-balance leases as real liabilities. However, pension obligations (both on- and off-balance sheet) are not associated with going-concern decisions. Overall, the findings shed light on how auditors regard recognized vs. disclosed obligations in their decisions that are communicated to capital market participants.