Research seminars

DETERMINING MISSTATEMENT AND MANAGEMENT BIAS IN ACCOUNTING ESTIMATES

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Mark W. Nelson
Cornell University

27 November 2015 - HEC Paris T030 - From 2:00 am to 4:00 am


Audit Fees and Interpretive Guidance

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Rick Mergenthaler (CANCELLATION)
The University of Iowa

20 November 2015 - HEC Campus T004 - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


Does interpretive accounting guidance make audits more or less expensive? Many contend that U.S. GAAP has too much interpretive guidance, making it complex and difficult to assimilate. This effect would lead to higher audit effort and higher fees. However, specific guidance could both lower litigation risk and increase audit efficiency by reducing the need for auditors to continually deliberate complicated accounting issues across engagements. These effects would lead to lower audit fees. Overall, using both levels and changes regressions, we find that interpretive accounting guidance is associated with higher audit fees. However, this effect is smallest for firms facing the highest ex-ante litigation risk.

The Influence of Board of Directors’ Risk Oversight on Risk Management Maturity and Firm Risk-Taking

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Christopher D. Ittner (CANCELLATION)
Wharton Business School

17 November 2015 - HEC/ESSEC - CNIT La Défense - room 333 - From 2:00 am to 4:00 am


The Board of Directors’ role in risk oversight has come under increased scrutiny, resulting in shareholder lawsuits, increased regulation, and more extensive disclosure and listing requirements. While theory predicts that Board risk oversight can benefit stakeholders by mitigating risk-related agency conflicts, critics argue that changes in Board practices in response to external pressure reflect window-dressing. Using novel, proprietary data on corporate risk oversight and risk management processes, we find the location of Board risk oversight responsibilities to be a major determinant of Board risk oversight practices, with greater oversight in firms that assign responsibilities to the Board as a whole as well as to certain committees. Supporting the view that risk oversight is conducted for economic reasons, the quality of Board oversight practices has a direct positive relation with the maturity of risk management processes, as well as a significant indirect influence on future stock return volatility and tail risk through the enhanced risk management maturity. Positive associations between risk oversight, risk management and future share price and operating performance indicate that risk reductions do not come at the expense of firm value.

Functional Stupidity in the Boardroom: A Qualitative Examination of Compensation Committees

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Yves GENDRON
Laval

29 October 2015 - HEC Room T004 - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


This study provides a better understanding of the dynamics of knowledge and expertise in the context of public companies’ compensation committees (CCs), through a focus on CC members’ cognitive limitations. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, we mobilize the concepts of reflexive thinking and functional stupidity (Alvesson and Spicer 2012) to document and analyze CC members’ difficulties and/or unwillingness “to use cognitive and reflective capacities in anything other than narrow and circumspect ways” (Alvesson and Spicer, 2012, 1201). Overall, our findings indicate that CC members, although being firmly committed to knowledge development and problem solving, are disinclined to mobilize three key aspects of cognitive capacity (i.e., reflexivity, meaningful justification and substantive reasoning) in the design of remuneration policies. Our study also shows that these cognitive limitations are fuelled by a multidimensional exercise of power, which we conceive of as a form of “stupidity management” (Alvesson and Spicer 2012). The latter aims to limit CC members’ meaningful communicative action by constraining disruptive thinking and preventing critical issues from impacting committees’ agenda and deliberations – all of this in the name of aspirational yet superficial forms of decision-making leadership in the boardroom. Our analysis also highlights the central role of compensation consultants as “stupidity managers”, involved in the orchestration of the constraining of committee members’ mind. Significant implications of these findings for research and policy-making are discussed.

Analyst use of corporate toxic emissions data to assess firm’s future financial performance: an empirical analysis

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Yue LI
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

19 June 2015 - Room S126 - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


This study examines financial analysts’ use of non-financial, non-corporate disclosure environmental performance information to assess firms’ future earnings and financial prospect. Specifically, we examine analyst reactions to annual release of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We hypothesize that analysts use the TRI data to assess corporate environmental risks and impound such risks into their stock recommendations and earnings forecasts. Using a large sample of U.S. public companies from 1997 to 2011, we find that increased environmental risk exposure is associated with lower accuracy and higher dispersion in analyst earnings forecasts. We also find that analysts are more likely to revise their stock recommendations and earnings forecasts of a firm downward if the firm experiences an increase in their environmental risk exposures, and vice versa. In addition, we find evidence that analyst revisions in stock recommendations following the TRI release favourably impact firm’s future pollution reduction, consistent with analyst actions motivating firms to improve future environmental performance. Overall, the findings are consistent with analysts using non-financial, not-corporate disclosure environmental performance information to assess corporate environmental risk exposure and shed light on the mechanism through which corporate environmental risks are impounded into the stock prices.

Can Excess Pay Be Explained Away?

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Lakshmanan SHIVAKUMAR (Shiva)
LBS

29 May 2015 - HEC Campus, room T020 - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


This paper examines whether firms provide greater compensation-related textual disclosures to better explain the compensation awarded to their senior management team. Applying a textual analysis based approach to parse the contents of proxy statements for balanced scorecard related keywords and phrases, we create a text-based score and find that it is highly associated with the incidence of higher compensation. We then look at the Say-on-Pay setting, to assess whether greater textual performance disclosures are considered credible by shareholders when they cast their advisory votes on executive compensation. We find that firms that provide more compensation-related textual disclosures have a higher probability of obtaining SoP approval (i.e. over 70% support). We also find that firms that fail to obtain SoP approval provide greater disclosures in the following period. Finally, we find evidence suggesting that providing greater disclosures in response to past SoP disapproval increases the probability of obtaining an approval in the next SoP vote.

ESSEC/HEC - Why Bad Numbers Can Be Hard to Tame: The Effects of Rankings in Higher Education

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Wendy ESPELAND
Northwestern University Evanston

24 March 2015 - HEC Champerret - Amphi Marco Polo - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


Rankings express the status of universities as a specific number on a shared metric. This commensuration of quality renders status precise and relative. Each university now bears a specific and public relationship to every other school; is bound to each other in an explicit status system; and the ascent of one requires the descent of others. Rankings make obvious a university’s standing and trajectory, with numbers that circulate easily, are enveloped in the authority of science, and seem easy to interpret. Rankings offer a new form of scrutiny, one accessible to outsiders. Because we are reflective, reflexive beings measures are, in the language of social science, reactive. And rankings have been powerfully reactive. People scrutinize them, invest in them, and act differently because of them, transforming the institutions that rankings evaluate, producing consequences no one anticipated. As highly visible symbols of quality, rankings have changed how educators make decisions, allocate resources, and think about themselves and others. For these reasons, they are hard to tame.

A Sociology of Algorithms: High-Frequency Trading and the Shaping of Markets

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Donald MACKENZIE
University of Edinburgh

20 March 2015 - HEC Campus, room T017 - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


Computer algorithms are playing an ever more important role in financial markets. This paper proposes and exemplifies a sociology of algorithms that is (i) historical, in that it demonstrates path-dependence in the development of automated markets; (ii) ecological (in Abbott’s sense), in that it shows how automated high-frequency trading (HFT) is both itself an ecology and also is shaped by other linked ecologies (especially those of trading venues and of regulation); and (iii) “Zelizerian,” in that it highlights the importance of boundary work, especially of efforts to distinguish between (in effect) “good” and “bad” actors and algorithms. Empirically, the paper draws on interviews with 43 practitioners of HFT, and on a wider historical-sociology study (including interviews with a further 44 people) of the development of trading venues. The paper investigates the practices of HFT and analyses (in historical, ecological, and “Zelizerian” terms) how these differ in three different contexts (two types of share trading and foreign exchange).

Does corporate governance make financial reports better, or just better for equity investors?

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Dan SEGAL
IDC Herzliya

13 March 2015 - HEC Campus, room T022 - From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm


Financial reports should provide useful information to shareholders and creditors. Directors, however, normally have fiduciary duties toward equity holders, not creditors. We examine whether this slant in governance affects the likelihood firms will bias financial reports and circumvent debt covenants that protect creditors. We use a regime change in fiduciary duties that required directors in Delaware firms to protect creditors’ interests, as a research setting. We test the effect of fiduciary duty on a specific action to circumvent debt covenants, namely, the issuance of structured debt that can be reported as equity in financial reports, and we examine the general propensity of managers to avoid covenant violation using the distribution of covenant slack. Results of both tests show that firms are less likely to circumvent covenant restrictions when directors have fiduciary duties toward creditors. We also show that board quality lowers the probability that firms would bias reports and avoid covenants only when directors have a legal fiduciary duty toward creditors. Collectively, our results suggest firms are more likely to bias their financial reports and circumvent debt covenants when corporate governance is designed to protect equity holders and not creditors.

Do Client Characteristics Really Drive the Big N Audit Quality Effect?

Accounting & Management Control

Speaker: Mark DeFond
USC Marshall School of Business

10 February 2015 - ESSEC La Défense - From 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm



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