Examining the patterns of goodwill impairments in Europe and the US


Accounting in Europe

2016, vol. 16, n°3, pp.329-352

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

Mots clés : Goodwill, Impairment, IFRS 3, IAS 36, Europe, US

We examine the patterns of goodwill impairments in Europe and in the US over the period from 2006 to 2015, for a sample of more than 35,000 firm-year observations. We define the timeliness of goodwill impairments as the frequency of accounting impairments conditional to indications of economic impairments. We measure indications of economic impairment with three metrics: equity market value minus equity book value less than goodwill, market-to-book smaller than one, and negative EBITDA. Our research strategy leads us to draw very different conclusions than those in the recent EFRAG (2016) study. While median levels of goodwill on the books between US and European firms are relatively similar, we find several indications that US firms recognize timelier impairments, at least during 2008 and 2009, i.e., the early years of the financial crisis. We further document that US impairers write down a much greater percentage of their beginning balance of goodwill than European impairers. During the financial crisis, the median level of impairment by US firms was 63% of opening goodwill in 2008 and 40% in 2009, whereas median European write-downs were only 6% and 7% of goodwill, respectively. Even though European firms are more likely to impair over multiple years, the cumulative impairments never come close to the level of US firms, be it in a single year or cumulative over multiple years. We also find that the frequency of accounting impairment is small compared to the number of firms presenting evidence of economic impairment: only 20 to 25% of firms recognize impairments depending on the measure of economic impairment. This has often been interpreted by academics as a sign of untimely write-offs. Accounting differences between US GAAP and IFRS are unlikely to explain our results. One caveat of our analysis is that it does not allow us to draw conclusions on whether the observed differences between US and European firms are driven by differences in conditional conservatism and/or big bath accounting practices

Financial Distress Risk and New CEO Compensation


Management Science

février 2016, vol. 62, n°2, pp. 479 - 501

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

Mots clés : CEO compensation, Compensation premium, CEO incentives, Financial distress risk

We examine how ex ante financial distress risk affects CEO compensation. To disentangle the joint effects of performance on compensation and distress risk, we focus our analyses on new CEOs. Our results indicate that financial distress risk affects compensation through two channels. First, new CEOs receive significantly more compensation when financial distress risk is higher. This finding is consistent with CEOs receiving a compensation premium for bearing this risk since CEOs experience large personal costs if their firms later become financially distressed. Second, financial distress risk is associated with the incentives provided to new CEOs; distress risk is positively associated with pay-performance sensitivity and equity-based compensation and is negatively associated with cash bonuses. Further, financial distress risk is positively associated with pay-risk sensitivity for new CEOs. These findings suggest that financial distress risk alters the nature of the agency relationship in ways that lead firms to provide CEOs with more equity-based incentives. We also build on research that finds a positive relation between forced turnover risk and CEO compensation. Our analyses suggest the compensation effects of forced turnover risk appear to be mainly attributable to financial distress risk. Overall, our results indicate financial distress risk is an economically important determinant of new CEO compensation packages

Institutional Complexity and the Strategic Behaviors of SMEs in Transitional Environments


International Journal of Emerging Markets

septembre 2016, vol. 11, n°4, pp.514 - 532

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Mots clés : Institutional Logics, Institutional Complexity, Strategic Behaviors, SMEs, Transition Economies

We study how five privately owned Chinese companies adapted their strategies in the 2000-2012 period to large-scale macro-level institutional changes. Drawing on recent developments in institutional theory, in particular on the constructs of institutional logics, institutional complexity and “organizational filters”, we explain why our subject firms’ range of strategic behaviors went from broad to narrow, as a function of i) the stage of institutional transition and ii) organizational filters, i.e., how the firms make sense of the institutional complexity based on their own attributes. We discuss the implications of ourfindings for managers of SMEs in transitional economies and researchers

Knowing patients: The customer survey and the changing margins of accounting in healthcare


Accounting Organizations and Society

aout 2016, vol. 53, pp.17-33

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Mots clés : Survey Healthcare Accounting change Quality improvement Customer

This research investigates the changing “margins of accounting” (Miller, 1998) in the field of healthcare where, as in other fields, customer surveys have emerged as a means of accounting for customers and of holding professionals and organizations to account. Drawing upon methodological insights provided by genealogical studies of accounting and anthropological studies of “things,” this research addresses the activities and transformations that take place to move the survey from war to ward—from a means of learning about medical populations during and immediately after World War II to a means of accounting for the views of consumers and of holding providers accountable for their care. These movements are shown to entail the staging and stabilizing of “knowing patients” in both senses of the term: these are patients that are equipped and empowered as consumers with knowledge about quality and their care, and simultaneously stripped of their individualizing characteristics so as to be made knowable to organizations in terms that can be managed and improved. These findings speak to the limitations of accounting as it infiltrates fluid and personal spaces in order to represent people in modes other than financial and to reconstitute knowledge from below. Doing so is shown not just to limit the possibilities for customers to speak and to be heard, but to give rise to a particularly pernicious form of territorialization in which the subject and object of accounting knowledge become inextricably intertwined and indistinguishably blurred. This has implications for the promises and practices of accounting in a post-modern society and for the kinds of questions that researchers ask about its effects.

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.

Voluntary disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions: Contrasting the carbon disclosure project and corporate reports


Journal of Business Ethics

mars 2016, vol. 134, n°3, pp.445-461

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Mots clés : Communication channels, GHG emissions, Stakeholder theory, Traceability, Voluntary disclosure

As global warming continues to attract growing levels of attention, various stakeholders (states, general public, investors, and lobbyists) have put climate change on corporate agendas and expect firms to disclose relevant greenhouse gas (GHG) information. In this paper, we investigate the consistency of the GHG information voluntarily disclosed by French listed firms through two different communication channels: corporate reports (CR) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). More precisely, we contrast the amounts of GHG emissions reported and the methodological explanations provided (named ‘traceability’) in each channel. Consistent with a stakeholder theory perspective, we find that GHG amounts are significantly lower in the CR than in the CDP. We also find that firms increase the CR figures’ traceability when there is a discrepancy between disclosures in the two channels. We suggest that the aim of this greater traceability is to enhance information credibility across the different channels used

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

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