The intense legislative and media scrutiny after a series of high‐profile corporate failures, coupled with the paradigm shift in the regulation of the auditing profession brought forth by the Sarbanes‐Oxley Act, suggests that auditors' decisions would be more conservative in the period after December 2001. Based on analyses of 226 financially stressed companies that entered bankruptcy during the period from 2000 to 2003, we find that auditors are more likely to issue going‐concern modified audit opinions in the period after December 2001. Since the post‐December 2001 period coincides with recovery from a recession in the U.S., we also examine prior audit opinions for 93 companies entering bankruptcy in 1991 and 1992. We find that auditors were also more likely to issue prior going‐concern modified audit opinions in 2002–03 than in the earlier recession recovery period. Following the technique used in Francis and Krishnan (2002), we document that the increase in going‐concern modification rates for bankrupt companies after December 2001 is due to changes in auditor reporting decisions and not solely due to differences in client characteristics between the time periods studied.

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