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Keywords:

  • Asymmetric timeliness;
  • Capital markets;
  • City-level audit markets;
  • Conservatism

Abstract

Despite the allegations of audit failure and the enormous publicity surrounding Arthur Andersen's indictment, there is no systematic empirical evidence on characteristics of accounting information of clients of Arthur Andersen vis-à-vis other Big 6 auditors. I examine whether earnings of Andersen's Houston-based clients are timely in reporting bad news about future cash flows. I find that relative to a control group consisting of Houston-based clients audited by other Big 6 auditors, earnings of Andersen clients are less timely in reporting bad news. Further, it appears that operating accruals of Andersen clients are less effective in accelerating the timely recognition of bad news than operating accruals of non-Andersen clients. The findings suggest that the clients of Andersen's Houston office engaged in aggressive accounting practices, including delayed recognition of publicly available bad news.