Amidst heightened concern among U.S. and international regulators is the need to examine reasons why auditors are not issuing going-concern opinions (GCOs) to financially distressed clients who seem to warrant such opinions. We examine societal trust as one such reason, finding a lower incidence of GCOs with high societal trust. Moreover, we find that high societal trust is associated with fewer GCO Type I misclassifications, but more GCO Type II misclassifications. In addition, the association between societal trust and GCOs does not disappear for severely distressed clients, suggesting that auditors do not adequately perceive clients that warrant GCOs when the clients are in high trust countries, and illuminating a dark side to societal trust. Moreover, low litigation risk and auditor-management relationship longevity exacerbate this dark side of societal trust. Our study highlights how societal trust can have beneficial effects across multiple economic contexts while posing problems in the auditing context.

Data Availability: All data used in the study are available from the sources cited in the text.

JEL Classifications: D91; M41; M42.

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