This study analyzes the impact of internal control quality on audit delay following the implementation of the Sarbanes‐Oxley Act (2002) (SOX). Unlike prior studies of audit delay that obtain information about internal control strength via surveys, or use fairly crude proxies for internal control quality, our study employs external auditor assessments of internal control over financial reporting (ICOFR) that are publicly disclosed in SEC 10‐K filings under SOX Section 404. Thus, the empirical evidence provided in this study is both timely and reliable (i.e., not subject to small sample bias or weak proxies). Consistent with our expectation, we find that the presence of material weakness in ICOFR is associated with longer delays. The types of material weakness also matter. Compared to specific material weakness, general material weakness is associated with longer delays. Additional analyses indicate that companies with control problems in personnel, process and procedure, segregation of duties, and closing process experience longer delays.

After controlling for other impact factors, this study also documents a significant increase in audit delay associated with the fulfillment of the SOX Section 404 ICOFR assessment requirement. This suggests that Section 404 assessments have made it more difficult for firms to comply with the SEC's desire to shorten 10‐K filing deadlines. Our finding thus supports and helps explain the SEC's decisions in 2004 and 2005 to defer scheduled reductions in 10‐K filing deadlines (from 75 days to 60 days) for large, accelerated filers.

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