To explore how the profile of auditors among restating companies compares to that of other companies, the author analyzed the companies tracked in the Standard & Poor's Research Insight CompustatPC database for 1996 through mid-2003, comparing the relative incidence and the nature of auditor changes observed for the list of 731 entities recording the 919 restatements identified in the GAO report covering 1997 to June 2002.
Exhibit 1 presents an aggregate picture of the auditor distribution per year for all restating entities relative to other CompustatPC companies per year, including the count for entities coded within the database as unaudited.
This entails dividing the number of entities restating anytime from 1996 through 2003 for a given CPA firm, based on the GAO information set, by the total number of observations analyzed in that same year for that firm.
This analysis would indicate that, in relative terms, Coopers & Lybrand had the largest proportion of the restating entities in a given year (11%); until its merger with PWC, which then experienced a greater relative proportion (8%), from 1999 to 2002.
Further analyzing the pooled data set (including all years of restatement), Exhibit 2 shows the relative annual change among restating and nonrestating firms.
A shortcoming of the aggregate analyses in Exhibits 1 and 2 is that all restating companies are pooled, which does not permit a focus on restatements in a given year and their auditor selections across the period under study.
The incidence of unqualified opinions without additional language is greater for restating companies than for others, although the difference becomes negligible by 2002.
Auditor changes among restating companies, once multiple changers are set aside, is quite comparable to that observed in nonrestating companies.
Analysis does not support speculation about the high incidence of Andersen's clients restating results.