Audit Process, Private Information, and Insider Trading

Audit Process, Private Information, and Insider Trading

By Salman Arif, John D. Kepler, Joseph Schroeder, Daniel Taylor
March 2020Working Paper No. 3806

While the shareholder benefits of audits are well documented, evidence on whether audits can facilitate opportunistic behavior by corporate insiders is scarce. In this paper, we examine whether the audit process facilitate one particular form of opportunism: informed trading by corporate insiders.

We focus our analysis on insider trading around the audit report date. We find an increase in trading around the audit report date and that the increase is abnormally large for firms that subsequently report modified opinions. Abnormal increase in trading is concentrated among officers and non-audit committee independent directors, and most pronounced in first-time modified opinions and modified opinions in years where financial results are subsequently restated. These trades are highly opportunistic: they predict restatements, and as a consequence, avoid significant losses. Collectively, our findings provide novel evidence that insiders appear to exploit private information about the audit process –– a process ostensibly designed to protect shareholders –– for opportunistic gain.

Keywords
audit opinions, audit process, audit report, private information, insider trading, opportunism