Are high audit fees a signal that the auditor exerted more effort or a signal that the auditor may be losing her independence? Prior literature offers conflicting evidence. In this paper, we reexamine the issue on a sample of clients who have both the incentive and the ability to use discretionary accruals to meet or beat the consensus earnings forecast. We find a negative relationship between the level of abnormal audit fees paid by the client and the likelihood of using discretionary accruals to meet or beat the consensus analyst forecast. The evidence is consistent with the notion that abnormal audit fees are indicative of greater effort on the engagement. In other words, the results suggest a positive relationship between abnormal audit fees and audit quality. We show that the conflicting evidence in prior research was caused by research designs that did not consider the incentives of the manager.
JEL Classifications: M42; M41.
Data Availability: All data are available from public sources quoted in the text.