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Auditors’ Economic Incentives and the Sensitivity of Managerial Pay to Accounting Performance

Australian Accounting Review

Published online on


The use of managerial incentives to manage earnings in order to enhance accounting performance‐based compensation is greater when auditors have economic incentives to compromise their independence. Hence, compensation committees face more difficulties in determining cash compensation when earnings quality declines. This study investigates whether boards of directors can mitigate the agency problems between managers and shareholders by being aware of the opportunistic earnings management encouraged by auditors’ economic incentives and actively adjusting performance‐based compensation for the reduced earnings quality. To this end, it examines how auditors’ economic incentives affect the sensitivity of managerial pay to accounting performance. The findings show a negative association between the client's economic importance to the auditor and the sensitivity of managerial pay to accounting performance, with this association more pronounced for firms that opportunistically inflate earnings, suggesting that boards mitigate agency problems by actively intervening to modify performance‐based compensation schemes for the reduced earnings quality. Additional analyses show that board effectiveness in determining compensation depends on its characteristics. These results suggest the urgent need to oblige companies to establish compensation committees, particularly in countries that lack such a mandatory requirement or where few companies have such committees.