Regulatory Flexibility and Management Opportunism in the Choice of Alternative Accounting Standards: An Illustration Based on Large French Groups


International Journal of Accounting

2003, vol. 38, pp.195-213

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Due to the flexibility of domestic accounting regulations, French groups are entitled to refer to international or American standards for their consolidation. The objective of this research paper is to focus on the choices made by the 100 largest French companies during the last 16 years (1985-2000). In practice, apart from the French rules, three "alternative" sets of standards are used: the International Accounting Standards (IAS), "international principles," and the U.S. GAAP. The percentage of companies referring to alternative (i.e., non-French) standards rose in the first part of the period, then fell. Additionally, while the number of companies choosing U.S. GAAP increased over the period as a whole, the number preferring IAS or "international principles" has been in sharp decline since 1994- 1995. Our results show that in this voluntary move towards international accounting harmonization, the choices made by French companies have clearly varied according to developments in French accounting regulations and the changing power balance between the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) and the SEC-FASB. This indicates a certain degree of opportunism by the management, who clearly keeps one eye constantly on the cost-benefit trade-off.