Information Asymmetry, Accounting Standards, and Accounting Conservatism

  • Mostafa Harakeh

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis consists of three self-contained essays, each assessing the interaction between financial accounting and information asymmetry from a different aspect. In the first two essays, I examine how a change in the information environment affects the behavior of market participants. In the third essay, I evaluate the empirical measurement of conditional conservatism in accounting data. Together, these studies contribute to the understanding of the role of financial reporting in mitigating the information gap between stakeholders.In the first essay, I explore the impact of the mandatory adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) on dividend payout policy and the value relevance of dividends in two Western European economies. I select the UK as a major common-law country (control group) and France as a code-law country (treatment group) in order to implement a difference-in-differences methodology. My findings suggest that IFRS adoption is a major contributor in increasing dividend payouts among code-law firms, compared to common-law firms, due to a greater reduction in information asymmetry following the IFRS mandate. This makes investors in code-law firms more willing to rely on accounting measures of firm performance, thereby causing a significant and material decrease in dividend value relevance among code-law firms relative to common-law firms.In the second essay, I examine the potential for IFRS to influence the market for SEOs. I utilize a difference-in-differences methodology, where the UK (i.e. common-law firms) is the control group and France (i.e. code-law firms) is the treatment group. I argue that IFRS adoption serves to mitigate information asymmetry and improve accounting quality. Accordingly, I find that, following IFRS adoption, earnings management activities decrease among code-law firms prior to issuing SEOs. As a result of the lower levels of earnings management and information asymmetry, I predict and find that the market reaction to issuing SEOs improves significantly for code-law firms following IFRS. Given that equity financing becomes less costly, I find that the propensity to issue new SEOs increases among code-law firms after IFRS adoption.In the third and final essay, I examine the empirical measurement of conditional conservatism (CC) in accounting data. Prior studies have raised serious concerns about the bias in the asymmetric timeliness (AT) measure of CC. This measure, along with the C_Score measure, underpins a large body of empirical research on CC. Thus I endeavor to assess the extent to which prior literature may need to be revised because of its reliance on these measures. In exploring this issue, I replicate prior studies that rely on the AT or the C_Score measure, and then compare the replicated results with those generated by applying the variance ratio (VR) measure of CC, proposed by Dutta & Patatoukas (2017). I show that the AT and the VR measures are associated unconditionally. Furthermore, my findings suggest that the observed variation in the C_Score measure is driven by variation in the bias implicit in the AT measure rather than variation in CC. I also provide evidence showing that the AT measure yields similar conclusions to the VR measure in research designs that model the change in CC following an exogenous change in accounting policy; however, I find that using the AT measure to document cross-sectional differences in CC is highly likely to have given rise to invalid conclusions in a large number of studies.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMartin Walker (Supervisor) & Edward Lee (Supervisor)

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