We examine whether the readability of financial statement footnotes in the annual report is informative about audit engagement risk. Using various readability measures, we predict and find that firms with less readable footnotes have longer audit report lag, incur higher audit fees, and are more likely to receive a first time modified going concern opinion. We also show that readability of footnotes is associated with a higher likelihood of financial misstatements and future accounting-related litigation. Our results are robust to several measures of readability used in prior literature, as well as different specifications and design choices, revealing that financial statement footnote readability provides incremental information about audit engagement risk that affects auditor-client contracting.

Data Availability: Data are obtained from public sources identified in the paper.

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