Client Satisfaction and Big 6 Audit Fees

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1999


This study examines whether client satisfaction can help explain cross-sectional variation in Big 6 audit fees paid by Fortune 1000 clients. After controlling for other factors related to audit fees (including audit quality attributes), client satisfaction with the audit team is positively associated with fees. It appears that a dimension of client satisfaction unrelated to audit quality attributes is the factor associated with an audit fee premium. This dimension of satisfaction may reflect other aspects of service quality not documented in the literature, or it may simply enable an auditor to earn economic rents through enhanced bargaining power. Client satisfaction with the audit firm does not appear to be priced in this segment of the audit market. The results are consistent with the view that a Big 6 audit is a service that is differentiable in the eyes of client management, and the results highlight the importance of the audit team composition in allowing a Big 6 audit firm to differentiate the audit product. Also, if auditors are earning local rents due to enhanced satisfaction levels, then a perfect competition model may not be appropriate for the audit services market.