The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) inspects auditors with fewer than 100 publicly held clients, once every three years (i.e., triennial inspection). In doing so, the PCAOB may inspect any audit engagement within the three-year window, including audits completed only months earlier (“inspection year” audits) and audits with at least a one-year, if not two-year lag (“non-inspection year” audits). We theorize the triennial inspection process affects audit quality levels, whereby auditors impose higher (lower) audit quality during inspection years (non-inspection years). We find clients of triennially inspected auditors have significantly lower levels of accruals during inspection years. Further, this change can be attributed to additional audit effort expended during inspection years. Finally, we find some evidence this is a learned behavior developed after the initial round of inspections. Our evidence suggests auditors opportunistically increase (decrease) audit quality during inspection (non-inspection) years in response to the triennial inspection process.

Data Availability: All data are from publicly available sources.

JEL Classifications: M42.

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