ESI Brown Bag Lecture
Timothy Shield, PhD - "Financial Reporting, Moral Sentiments, & the Self-Regulation of Management Behavior"
Abstract: We experimentally test the hypothesis that financial reporting generates economic value even when managers’ wealth is not tied to reported earnings. The mechanism propelling our hypothesis is human morality where conscientious managers seek to “do right” by investors whose investments are necessary to enable the firm’s profit-seeking activity. Adam Smith represents this internal force as an “Impartial Spectator” internalized through social interactions that allow us to identify when others judge our behavior as praise or blame-worthy. Smith’s conjecture describes the mechanism at work in Brandeis’ famous assertion that transparent corporate reporting provides “sunlight” to serve as “the best of all disinfectants.” Our experimental evidence suggests that total wealth generated, the propensity of managers to reinvest resources, and share profits with investors are greater when reporting is present. This evidence suggests that the value of financial reporting arises in part because it implicates moral sentiments in managers that ultimately benefit of investors.