A theory of certification with an application to the market for auditing services
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- Discussion papers (FOR) 
The paper develops a theory which attempts to understand segmentation and fee-setting in certification markets. The basis for the theory is that certifiers offer differentiated tests; for a given object it may be more difficult to pass the test of certifier i than the test of certifier j. Given the test standards, certifiers compete for customers via their fee-setting. In equilibrium, sellers with low unobservable quality self-select to a lenient test and sellers with high unobservable quality self-select to a stricter test. Moreover, sellers selecting an easy test pay a lower (endogenous) certification fee than sellers selecting a difficult test. As a test of the theory, I analyze Norwegian panel data to investigate whether firms affilated with a cheaper or a non-Big 5 auditor have worse (unobservable) characteristics, measured by subsequent drops in sales, assets or equity. The empirical analysis supports the theory.
UtgiverNorwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. Department of Finance and Management Science