In 2015, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants issued a standard requiring auditors to communicate key audit matters (KAMs) in the audit report. This standard provides an opportunity to examine the effect of KAMs on audit fees and financial reporting quality. Using public companies listed on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as the treatment group and the companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen Main Board Stock Exchanges as the control group, pre-post and difference-in-differences analyses show that the KAMs standard resulted in improved financial reporting quality but also higher audit fees. Further analyses show that, although the increase in audit fees was related to the risk of material financial statement mis-statements and audit firm business risk, the improvement in financial reporting, which occurred for companies with low financial reporting quality, resulted from the “threat to management of disclosure in KAMs.”

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