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Voluntary Internal Control Weakness Disclosures in Initial Public Offerings: Determinants and Subsequent Financial Reporting Quality

Tiffany Jo Westfall, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examines registrants’ incentives to disclose internal control weaknesses (ICWs) voluntarily in IPO registration statements and their post-IPO financial reporting quality. Using a sample of initial public offering (IPO) registrants from 2005-2013, I find that increasing management’s disclosure credibility, by hiring a new CEO in the IPO, is an incentive to include ICWs in IPO registration statements. I find that management does build credibility with underwriters evidenced by IPO registrants that disclose ICWs voluntarily are associated with higher IPO offer prices. The results suggest that registrants including voluntary ICW disclosures are more likely to receive an adverse SOX 404 auditor opinion. I find that registrants' voluntary ICW disclosures are informative and are associated with negative cumulative abnormal returns only when an auditor issues an adverse SOX 404 auditor opinion after the disclosure. IPO registrants that voluntarily disclose ICWs and receive unqualified SOX 404 auditor opinions appear to be successful in mitigating negative cumulative abnormal returns. My findings provide evidence that misstatements appear to outpace material weakness disclosures for the sample of IPO registrants. Overall, the findings suggest that managers seek to build credibility through voluntary disclosure of ICWs at the IPO, allowing managers to maximize the rewards at the IPO date (i.e., IPO offer price). However, managers suffer punishment from investors if subsequent events (i.e., SOX 404 material weaknesses) call into question the credibility of the disclosure. The post-IPO financial reporting quality results are timely and relevant to regulators because the relationship between misstatements and unqualified audit opinions is puzzling. Additionally, the JOBS Act allows IPO registrants to delay SOX 404 compliance for up to five years. Finally, this study’s results are important to investors because the purpose of SOX 404 is to provide an advanced warning of financial reporting weaknesses.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Westfall, Tiffany Jo, "Voluntary Internal Control Weakness Disclosures in Initial Public Offerings: Determinants and Subsequent Financial Reporting Quality" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10102728.