The passage of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) was big news for public companies, but there was little discussion or analysis about what it meant for private firms, nonprofits and governmental entities. Yet those nonpublic entities needed to purchase accounting services from the same pool of independent auditors. It turns out that shocks to public companies from SOX significantly affected supply for the entire audit services market.
In a recent study, my colleagues and I looked at these developments and found that SOX had several negative spillover effects for nonpublic entities. Overall, audit fee increases for nonpublic entities more than doubled. Many others were forced to switch to a different auditor.
Why is this a big deal if those groups aren’t legally required to hire independent auditors? It’s important because nonpublic entities still have substantial financial reporting needs. For example, organizations use audits to establish payments plans with vendors and suppliers or to demonstrate creditworthiness to banks. Charities use audits to show they are responsibly spending donors’ money.
Here is a breakdown of the spillover effects: Read More »
Small firms and startups are often referred to as the “engine” of the U.S. economy because of their ability to create new jobs. For example, firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 63% of net new U.S. jobs created between 1992 and 2013.
Yet despite their importance to the economy, small firms often face difficulties accessing bank financing. These firms are typically opaque — that is, they don’t attract media or analyst attention, or produce lengthy financial reports. As a result, banks cannot rely on public information to assess loan applications from small firms. Instead, the firms must provide the bank with information demonstrating their creditworthiness. This process can be cumbersome and expensive for small firms.
In many cases, a bank can avoid imposing onerous reporting requirements on a firm by relying on its experience lending to similar firms from the industry or community to make loan approval decisions. In theory, this arrangement can make it easier for small firms to get credit.
Yet regulators pressure banks to collect more documentation from their largest exposures — precisely those areas where the bank has the greatest experience — a policy that can work to the disadvantage of small firms.
For example, a bank that has expertise in lending to small manufacturing companies might be the best able to access lending risk, and therefore make the soundest lending decisions on new businesses in this sector. But the bank’s expertise works against it since regulators require banks with heavy concentrations of loans in certain industries to collect even more documentation.