This study investigates whether fee dependence within the audit firms' offices jeopardises auditor independence. Fee dependence is examined at both the national audit firm level as well as the local office level and in a setting where public disclosure of fees is mandatory. We focus our tests on audit fee dependence and at the same time we control for the effects of non-audit service fee dependence post the 1989 mergers. We operationalise the exercise of independent judgement in auditing by the propensity to issue qualified audit opinions. If fee dependence affects auditors' independent judgement, then auditors are less likely to qualify the accounts. The study's results show that the level of auditor fee dependence does not affect auditor propensity to issue unqualified audit opinions. The findings remain robust to a number of sensitivity tests including the analyses controlling for the effects of non-audit service fee dependence and other settings in which there is heightened pressure on auditors to confront the effects of fee dependence on exercising independent audit judgement. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.