Brand Name Audit Pricing, Industry Specialization, and Leadership Premiums post-Big 8 and Big 6 Mergers

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Journal Article
Contemporary Accounting Research, 2002, 19 (1), pp. 77 - 110
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This paper investigates brand name, industry specialization, and leadership audit pricing in the wake of the mergers that created the Big 6 and the Big 5 accounting firms. For samples of Australian listed public companies in each of the postmerger years 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1998, we estimate national audit fee premiums for the Big 6/5 auditors and the industry specialists and leaders. We find limited support for the ability of the Big 6/5 to obtain fee premiums over non-Big 6/5 for those industries not having specialist auditors. Nonspecialist Big 6/5 auditors are able to obtain fee premiums over nonspecialist non-Big 6/5 auditors for those industries having specialist auditors. However, this result only holds among the smaller half of our sample. We do not find strong support for the presence of industry specialist premiums in the postmerger years, especially after 1990, using various definitions of industry specialist. We find, at best, limited support for the presence of industry leadership premiums. The evidence suggests that after the Big 8/6 audit firm mergers, some caution is required in generalizing the Craswell, Francis, and Taylor 1995 finding of national market industry specialist premiums. More generally, the study raises questions about the tenuous link between the concept of specialization and national market-share statistics.
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