Audit Committee Expertise: An Examination of the Post-SOX Era
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I examine whether accounting experts on the audit committee outperform other financial experts in monitoring financial reporting in the post-SOX era. SOX changed both the audit committee composition and financial reporting quality, indicating that prior findings of the association between accounting expertise and financial reporting quality from the pre-SOX and SOX implementation eras may not generalize to periods after SOX implementation. I find, in the post-SOX era, that accounting experts fail to outperform other financial experts. I then test for the association using former audit partners and they too, even with their high levels of accounting expertise, fail to outperform other financial experts. I further investigate this lack of association by examining how the association varies within expert type, based on when the expert was appointed as an audit committee member. I find that pre-SOX appointment former audit partners are the only group consistently associated with higher financial reporting quality, suggesting that previously identified incremental associations have been diluted by more recently appointed experts. The results suggest that, broadly, regulation aimed at influencing audit committee composition and expertise altered the previously documented relation. Additionally, they suggest that changing the definition of a financial expert to be more accounting focused, as recently requested by some investor advocates, is unlikely to improve financial reporting quality.