Performance Measurement in Global Governance: Ranking and the Politics of Variability


Accounting Organizations and Society

novembre 2016, vol. 55, pp.12-31

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

Mots clés : Ranking; Epistemic work; Professional vision; Commensuration; Performance measurement; Regulatory capitalism

The past thirty years have witnessed the spread of rankings, ratings and league tables as governance technologies which aim to regulate the provision of public goods by means of market pressures. This paper examines the process of company analysis underlying the production of a ranking known as the Access to Medicine Index. We conceptualize the Index as a “regulatory ranking” with the explicit mission of addressing a perceived regulatory gap and market failure: the lack of access to medicine in the Global South. The Index, which ranks the world's largest pharmaceutical companies with regards to their access to medicine policies and practices, aspires to help address the problem of access to medicine through stakeholder consultation, transparency and competition. This study unbundles the epistemic work underlying the performance measurement process leading to the creation of the Index. We trace how the goal of stakeholder consensus, the need to project objectivity and the aspiration to govern through competition shape analysts' epistemic work. We discuss how through notions such as “the good distribution” and “aspirational indicators”, performance measurement and ranking become entangled in a “politics of variability” whereby company data need to be variably interpreted in order to optimise the possibilities of intervening in companies through competitive pressures, while at the same time complying with the imperatives to remain in the space of perceived stakeholder consensus and to provide a faithful representation of companies performance to inform public debates. We reflect on the challenges posed by these analysis processes for the regulatory aspirations of the ranking

The Effect of IAS/IFRS Adoption on Earnings Management (Smoothing): A Closer Look at Competing Explanations


Journal of Accounting and Public Policy

juillet-août 2016, vol. 35, n°4, pp.352–394

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

Mots clés : IFRS, Earnings management, Smoothing

Prior research provides mixed evidence on whether the transition to IAS/IFRS deters or contributes to greater earnings management (smoothing). The dominant explanation for the conflicting results is self-selection. Early voluntary adopters had incentives to increase the transparency of their reporting in order to attract outside capital, while those firms that waited until IFRS adoption became mandatory in EU countries lacked incentives for transparent reporting leading to increases in earnings management (smoothing) after IFRS adoption. We maintain that the IFRS standards that went into effect in 2005 provide greater flexibility of accounting choices because of vague criteria, overt and covert options, and subjective estimates. This greater flexibility coupled with the lack of clear guidance on how to implement these new standards has led to greater earnings management (smoothing). Consistent with this view, we find an increase in earnings management (smoothing) from pre-2005 to post-2005 for firms in countries that allowed early IAS/IFRS adoption, as well as for firms in countries that did not allow early IFRS adoption. We find no evidence of changes in incentives that can explain these results.

Accounting for business combinations: Do purchase price allocations matter?


Journal of Accounting and Public Policy

juillet-août 2015, vol. 34, n°4, pp.362-391

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

Accounting for Quality: On the relationship between accounting and quality improvement in the UK National Health Service


BMC Health Services Research

2015, vol. 15, n°1, pp.178-211

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Mots clés : Quality Quality improvement Accounting Measurement Patient survey

BackgroundAccounting-that is, standardized measurement, public reporting, performance evaluation and managerial control-is commonly seen to provide the core infrastructure for quality improvement in healthcare. Yet, accounting successfully for quality has been a problematic endeavor, often producing dysfunctional effects. This has raised questions about the appropriate role for accounting in achieving quality improvement. This paper contributes to this debate by contrasting the specific way in which accounting is understood and operationalized for quality improvement in the UK National Health Service (NHS) with findings from the broadly defined ‘social studies of accounting’ literature and illustrative examples.DiscussionThis paper highlights three significant differences between the way that accounting is understood to operate in the dominant health policy discourse and recent healthcare reforms, and in the social studies of accounting literature. It shows that accounting does not just find things out, but makes them up. It shows that accounting is not simply a matter of substance, but of style. And it shows that accounting does not just facilitate, but displaces, control.SummaryThe illumination of these differences in the way that accounting is conceptualized helps to diagnose why accounting interventions often fail to produce the quality improvements that were envisioned. This paper concludes that accounting is not necessarily incompatible with the ambition of quality improvement, but that it would need to be understood and operationalized in new ways in order to contribute to this end. Proposals for this new way of advancing accounting are discussed. They include the cultivation of overlapping and even conflicting measures of quality, the evaluation of accounting regimes in terms of what they do to practice, and the development of distinctively skeptical calculative culture

Are We Lost in Translation? The Impact of Using Translated IFRS on Decision-Making


Accounting in Europe

2015, vol. 12, n°1, pp.107-125

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

Mots clés : Translation, Language, Decision-making

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are issued in English and subsequently translated into a multitude of languages to make them accessible to non-English-speaking IFRS users. In an international work context, IFRS users apply either the original English version or a translated version of an IFRS standard to input information presented in different languages. While research has reported numerous challenges inherent in IFRS translation, we know very little about the actual impact of using different languages on decision-making. Based on a series of 2 × 2 between-subjects experiments with German students who possessed different levels of accounting knowledge, we investigate the influence of language on decision-making. Our experimental manipulations entail the language of the accounting standard used (English vs. German) and the language of the input case information (English vs. German). Our German participants made decisions about a series of cases relating to IAS 24 Related Party Disclosures. Based on an expert benchmark solution for the cases, we determine the quality of participants’ decisions. We find that the use of IAS 24 in the participants’ mother tongue (German) has a positive impact on decision-making quality. We also find some support for a positive influence of the native language of the input case information relative to English input case information. Moreover, participants’ accounting knowledge and English language skill are positively associated with decision-making quality

Boards’ Response to Shareholders’ Dissatisfaction: The Case of Shareholders’ Say on Pay in the UK


European Accounting Review

décembre 2015, vol. 24, n°4, pp.727-752

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

Mots clés : Executive compensation, Say-on-Pay, shareholders' vote, dissatisfaction

In 2002, the United Kingdom adopted a regulation allowing shareholders to cast non-binding (advisory) votes on their firm's Directors' Remuneration Report during annual general meetings (the 'Say-on-Pay' rule). This study evaluates a decade of this regulation and examines how it affected the behavior of shareholders and boards in a sample of FTSE 350 firms during the period 2002-2012. I find evidence that shareholder dissatisfaction increases with excess CEO compensation. This relationship does not exist for the expected level of compensation, suggesting that shareholders take a sophisticated approach when casting their vote. Boards do not appear to respond to shareholder dissatisfaction systematically, however they do respond selectively by reducing the excessiveness of CEO compensation when performance is poor. Boards also seem to respond swiftly to shareholder dissatisfaction. There is evidence that the probability of CEO turnover increases with shareholder dissatisfaction. Overall, the evidence suggests that 'Say-on-Pay' regulation addressed regulatory concerns about transparency, accountability, and performance linkage

Default clauses in debt contracts


Review of Accounting Studies

décembre 2015, vol. 20, n°4, pp.1596-1637

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

Mots clés : Events of default, Default clauses, Loan contracts, Bond contracts, Cross-default

We examine the determinants of events of default clauses in syndicated loan and bond contracts, provisions that allow lenders to request the repayment of principal and to terminate lending commitments. We document significant variation in the use of default clauses and their restrictiveness within the same type of lending contract but also across loans and bonds. We find that default clauses in public bond contracts are less restrictive than those in syndicated loan contracts. We also document that two ex ante proxies for bankruptcy costs, the level of intangible assets and capitalized research and development expenditures at the time of debt contracting, are associated with less restrictive default clauses, especially in bond contracts. We conclude that bondholders attempt to mitigate the occurrence of inefficient defaults. Given their inability to coordinate with each other and their ownership of subordinated claims, bondholders incur higher default costs than bank lenders

Do Rating Agencies Cater? – Evidence from Rating-Based Contracts


Journal of Accounting and Economics

avril-mai 2015, vol. 59, n°2-3, pp.264-283

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Mots clés : Rating agencyOff-balance-sheet financeSoft informationDebt contracting

I examine whether rating agencies cater to borrowers with rating-based performance-priced loan contracts (PPrating firms). I use data from Moody׳s Financial Metrics on its quantitative adjustments for off-balance-sheet debt and qualitative adjustments for soft factors. In the cross-section and for borrowers experiencing adverse economic shocks, I find that these adjustments are more favorable for PPrating firms than for other firms, consistent with rating agencies catering to the PPrating borrowers. I find that this catering is muted in two circumstances when rating agencies׳ reputational costs are higher than usual: (1) near the investment grade and prime short-term rating thresholds and (2) when Fitch Ratings also provides a rating

Effect of Impairment-Testing Disclosures on the Cost of Equity Capital


Journal of Business Finance & Accounting

2015, vol. 42, n°5-6, pp.583-618

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

Mots clés : impairment test, cost of capital, information risk, disclosures, IAS 36

Information risk – the uncertainty regarding the parameters of the distribution offirms’ future cash flows – generates valuation errors and is costly to investors who require a higher return to compensate for greater information risk. We argue that, on average, through their impairment-testing disclosures, managers convey information that reduces information risk. Using disclosures from firms included in the SBF 250 index of Euronext Paris over the period 2006–2009, we document a negative association between impairment-testing disclosures and implied cost of equity capital. We find that prospective entity-specific impairment-testing disclosures are negatively associated with cost of capital whereas descriptive disclosures exhibit no association with cost of capital. Additionally, we document that firms which avoid booking impairments when low performance indicators suggest a greater likelihood of impairments exhibit no association between impairment-testing disclosures and cost of capital. This suggests that those firms’ disclosures are perceived as less accurate by investors. We also find that prospective impairment-testing disclosures are negatively related to analysts’ forecast errors. Our study adds to the literature on the economic consequences of financial reporting and sheds light on the consequences of one accounting mechanism, namely impairment-testing disclosures, ensuring conservatism of financial reporting

Instituting a transnational accountability regime: The case of Sovereign Wealth Funds and “GAPP”


Accounting Organizations and Society

juillet 2015, vol. 44, pp.15-36

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

This paper analyses the development of a transnational accountability regime, – the Generally Accepted Principles and Practices (GAPP), introduced in 2008 for sovereign wealth funds. Facilitated by the International Monetary Fund, the regime aimed to improve the transparency, governance and accountability of these government-owned investment funds that originate primarily from the Middle East and Asia. I focus here on the struggles leading to the establishment of the boundaries of the GAPP accountability regime by diagnosing the accountability problem, determining the providers and the imagined users of the accounts and defining the appropriate course of action. I then analyse the struggles involved in negotiating the process and technologies used to establish the accountability relationship including the role of standards in accounting, audit and risk management, as well as transparency and compliance pressures. In each case I identify the different ideas or templates that emerged during the negotiations and how consensus was achieved through careful steering by a core coalition comprising the US Treasury and the largest, most legitimate funds. I highlight the need to go beyond typical fault lines in debates surrounding the origins of global governance regimes (e.g. local vs. global, western vs. non-western, core vs. peripheral) by focusing on emerging coalitions of local/global and western/non-western actors that increasingly drive such regimes. I show how the disproportionate representation of financial actors in such coalitions leads to less attention to questions of public accountability, and instead focusing such regimes on financial accountability. I further elaborate on the implications of the fall-back to transparency in transnational accountability regimes as a last resort and the types of resistance emerging against it