REIT Auditor Fees and Financial Market Transparency
This article examines the relationship between overinvestment in audit services, abnormal nonaudit fees paid to the auditor and market-based measures of firm transparency. Because real estate investment trusts (REITs) must distribute 90% of their earnings as dividends, many are repeat participants in the seasoned equity market. Thus, REITs have unusually strong incentives to strive for security market transparency. We find that the capital markets reward REITs that overinvest in audit services with better liquidity as measured by bid-ask spreads. However, firms with abnormally high nonaudit expenditures appear to be penalized with wider spreads, consistent with the notion that such fees may compromise auditor independence. Copyright (c) 2009 American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association.