SUMMARY: In this study, we document evidence on the impact of mandatory rotation of audit firms on auditor independence using Spanish archival data. Rotation of audit firms every nine years was mandatory in Spain from 1988–1995. Although the rule was never enforced, the Spanish context provides a unique setting to examine the effects that mandatory audit firm rotation has on auditor behavior. We examine audit reports for a sample of financially stressed companies from 1991–2000 to compare audit reporting behavior in a regime with rotation (mandatory rotation period: 1991–1994) and one without rotation (post‐mandatory rotation period: 1995–2000). We test two competing hypotheses concerning the impact of mandatory rotation on the likelihood of auditors' issuing going‐concern modified audit opinions. We find no evidence to suggest that a mandatory rotation requirement is associated with a higher likelihood of issuing going‐concern opinions. Our results suggest that auditors' incentives to protect their reputation have a positive impact on the likelihood of issuing going‐concern opinions, while auditors' incentives to retain existing clients did not impact on their decisions in both the mandatory rotation and post‐mandatory rotation periods. Overall, our results provide empirical support for the arguments put forward by opponents of mandatory rotation.

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