Journal of Accounting Research

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  • Effects of an Information Sharing System on Employee Creativity, Engagement, and Performance

    Many service organizations rely on information sharing systems to boost employee creativity to meet customer needs. We conducted a field experiment in a retail chain, based on a registered report accepted by JAR, to test whether an information sharing system recording employees’ creative work affected the quality of creative work, job engagement, and financial performance. We found that, on average, this system did not have a significant effect on any of these outcomes. However, it significantly improved the quality of creative work in stores that had accessed the system more frequently and in stores with fewer same‐company nearby stores. It also improved creative work and job engagement in stores in divergent markets, where customers needed more customization. We found weak evidence of better financial results where salespeople had lower creative talent before the system was introduced. Our findings shed light on those conditions in which information sharing systems affect employees’ creative work.

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  • Performance Effects of Setting a High Reference Point for Peer‐Performance Comparison

    We conduct a field experiment, based on a registered report accepted by the Journal of Accounting Research, to test performance effects of setting a high reference point for peer‐performance comparison. Relative to providing the median as a reference point for online students to compare themselves to, providing the top quartile: damps performance for those below the median, boosts performance for those between the median and top quartile, and, in the case of outcome but not process comparison, boosts performance for those above the top quartile. We do not find that either reference point yields a greater average performance effect. However, providing the more effective reference point in each partition of initial performance yields a 40% greater performance effect than providing either reference point uniformly. Students access the online courses intermittently over the span of a year. Our effects derive from small portions of our treatment groups—5% in the case of process comparison and 26% in the case of outcome comparison—who accessed treatment and who were, on average, more active leading up to and during our intervention.

  • The Impact of Consulting Services on Audit Quality: An Experimental Approach

    We use experimental markets to examine whether providing consulting services to a non‐audit client impacts audit quality. Our paper directly addresses concerns raised by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board that the largest public accounting firms’ growth in their consulting practices threatens audit quality. We conduct an experiment proposed using a registration‐based editorial process. We compare a baseline where the auditor does not provide consulting services to conditions where auditors provide consulting to audit clients or where auditors only provide consulting services to non‐audit clients. Our unique design provides evidence on whether providing consulting to non‐audit clients strengthens the salience of a client‐cooperative social norm that reduces audit quality. We do not find differences in audit quality by condition in our planned analysis, however we find greater variation in audit quality in the conditions where auditors provide consulting services compared to the baseline. In unplanned analyses, our results suggest providing consulting services increases auditor cooperation with managers, increasing audit quality when managers prefer high audit quality and decreasing audit quality when managers prefer low audit quality.

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  • The Tone from Above: The Effect of Communicating a Supportive Regulatory Strategy on Reporting Quality

    In collaboration with the Authority for the Financial Markets in the Netherlands, we manipulate the content of official letters that instruct financial intermediaries to submit a mandatory self‐assessment. As part of the Registered Report Process, we submitted our hypotheses, experimental procedure, and planned statistical analyses before data collection. We predicted that a request indicating a supportive regulatory attitude has a positive effect on reporting quality on average. We also predicted this effect to be stronger for small firms and for firms with a long‐term orientation, and to become negative for firms with a short‐term orientation. Planned analyses show that a supportive letter reduced reporting quality unless firms had a long‐term orientation, supporting the moderating influence of time horizon, but providing no support for the expected average effect or for moderation by firm size.

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  • Corporate Scandals and Regulation

    Are regulatory interventions delayed reactions to market failures or can regulators proactively pre‐empt corporate misbehavior? From a public interest view, we would expect “effective” regulation to ex ante mitigate agency conflicts between corporate insiders and outsiders, and prevent corporate misbehavior from occurring or quickly rectify transgressions. However, regulators are also self‐interested and may be captured, uninformed, or ideological, and become less effective as a result. In this registered report, we develop a historical time series of corporate (accounting) scandals and (accounting) regulations for a panel of 26 countries from 1800 to 2015. An analysis of the lead‐lag relations at both the global and individual country level yields the following insights: (1) Corporate scandals are an antecedent to regulation over long stretches of time, suggesting that regulators are typically less flexible and informed than firms. (2) Regulation is positively related to the incidence of future scandals, suggesting that regulators are not fully effective, that explicit rules are required to identify scandalous corporate actions, or that new regulations have unintended consequences. (3) There exist systematic differences in these lead‐lag relations across countries and over time, suggesting that the effectiveness of regulation is shaped by fundamental country characteristics like market development and legal tradition.

  • Bridging the Gap: Evidence from Externally Hired CEOs

    We investigate executive employment gaps (hereafter, gaps) between the appointment of an external CEO at a public firm and the individual's prior executive position at a public company. These gaps cannot be reliably obtained from common databases. We hand‐collect data for externally hired CEOs at public companies from 1992 to 2014. These CEOs represent approximately 40% of the 5,095 CEO successions and have a mean gap of 1.9 years. The gap increases to 3.2 years for the subset of new hires with a gap. We hypothesize that labor market frictions and executive skill sets contribute to the existence and length of these gaps. Using theories from labor economics, we predict (equilibrium) associations between two measures of “fit” (executive compensation and long‐term match quality) and gaps (both existence and length). Finally, we provide descriptive evidence on what executives do (e.g., sit on boards, work for private consulting companies, or consume leisure) during their gaps. This project was subject to and published through a registered report process. Any tests that were not included in the accepted proposal are marked as unplanned analyses.

  • Disclosure “Scriptability”

    In response to the increasing use of computer programs to process firm disclosures, this registered report develops a new measure of “scriptability” that reflects computerized, rather than human, information processing costs. We validate our measure using SEC filing‐derived data from prior research and identify firm and disclosure characteristics related to it. In our planned hypothesis tests, we find some evidence that the speed of the market response to filings increases with scriptability, but find little evidence that scriptability affects the incidence and speed of news dissemination by Dow Jones. In additional analyses, we find that scriptability exhibits both positive and negative associations with changes in information asymmetry between market participants, depending on the filing, trading window, and measure examined. We also find little evidence that XBRL interacts with scriptability in a meaningful way. Overall, our study broadens our understanding of information processing costs and provides opportunities for new avenues of research.

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