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Fair value measurement (FVM) in IFRS calls for a market-oriented representation of economic ‘reality’, whereby the values attributed to rights (assets) and obligations (liabilities) are in principle determined from the perspective of the ‘market participant’ rather than that of the reporting entity. We argue, however, based upon Searle’s analysis of institutional reality, that such rights and obligations exist and are knowable only under certain conditions, that when those conditions hold FVM is not distinctive, and that when they do not hold the requirements of FVM are wishful and incoherent. Based upon this analysis, and using case study data, we explore how FVM is applied in practice to non-financial assets. We find, for a predominance of core operating assets, that fair value is unknowable, because of the absence of the institutional reality on which the FVM idea implicitly depends. In these cases, actors’ representations of fair value were found to be expedient, unstable and ultimately in direct contradiction of the market participant’s perspective that is ‘wished-for’ in IFRS.
The argument in this paper is that financial accounting is inherently conservative, in that a neutral application of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB's) definition of (net) assets leads to book value being less than economic value. There are both conceptual and practical reasons for this outcome, neither of which is explained by an intention to be conservative, by an asymmetry or bias that is designed to lead to a conservative outcome. Financial accounting is not a system for the neutral measurement of economic value. Book value and economic value are instead conceptually different, with conservatism resulting from that difference. This inherent conservatism seems to have been overlooked both by the IASB and by its critics. The IASB has sought to remove prudence from its framework and has attracted criticism from the academic and practitioner communities for doing so. Yet the challenges to the framework implied by adopting an agency-based, contracting demand for prudent accounting are criticisms of a problem that for the most part does not exist.
A symposium at the European Accounting Association (EAA) Annual Meetings on Friday 23 May 2014 in Tallinn, organised by Accounting in Europe and the EAA's Financial Reporting Standards Committee (FRSC), brought together leading respondents to the Discussion Paper and the International Accounting Standards Board to debate the issues surrounding the new Conceptual Framework. This paper reproduces the presentations from the panellists: Mario Abela, Leader, Research and Development, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC); Richard Barker, Saïd Business School, Oxford University & EAA FRSC; Rasmus Sommer, Senior Technical Manager, European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG); and Alan Teixeira, Senior Director – Technical Activities, International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). The panel was chaired by Paul André, ESSEC Business School & Editor Accounting in Europe.
The European Accounting Association (EAA) Financial Reporting Standards Committee (FRSC) provided a response to the International Accounting Standards Board's (IASB's) 2013 Discussion Paper (DP) on completing and revising its Conceptual Framework. The response consisted of a literature-based discussion of the issues raised in the IASB paper and responses to the questions asked. The following paper has omitted the responses to specific questions but otherwise sets out the arguments made to the IASB, together with introductory material to indicate the context. The FRSC paper follows the order of the IASB DP.
We summarise the response of the EAA's FRSC to Towards a Disclosure Framework for the Notes, a Discussion Paper (DP) issued jointly by EFRAG, ANC and FRC. While supportive of much of the DP, and in particular of the underlying aim to place disclosures on a sounder conceptual foundation, we identify two broad themes for further development. The first concerns the DP's diagnosis of the problem, which is that the existing financial reporting is characterised by, on the one hand, disclosure overload and, on the other hand, an absence of a conceptual framework for organising and communicating disclosures. Our review of the literature suggests much greater support for the second of these two factors than for the first. The second broad theme is the purpose of the proposed DF, and the principles that are derived from this purpose. Here, we stress the need for the framework to better accommodate the context within which financial statement disclosures are used. In practice, this context is characterised by variation in information, incentives and enforcement, each of which has a considerable effect on the appropriate disclosure policy and practice in any given situation.
Conventional economic theory, applied to information released by listed companies, equates ‘useful’ with ‘price-sensitive’. Stock exchange rules accordingly prohibit the selective, private communication of price-sensitive information. Yet, even in the absence of such communication, UK equity fund managers routinely meet privately with the senior executives of the companies in which they invest. Moreover, they consider these brief, formal and formulaic meetings to be their most important sources of investment information. In this paper we ask how that can be. Drawing on interview and observation data with fund managers and CFOs, we find evidence for three, non-mutually exclusive explanations: that the characterisation of information in conventional economic theory is too restricted, that fund managers fail to act with the rationality that conventional economic theory assumes, and/or that the primary value of the meetings for fund managers is not related to their investment decision making but to the claims of superior knowledge made to clients in marketing their active fund management expertise. Our findings suggest a disconnect between economic theory and economic policy based on that theory, as well as a corresponding limitation in research studies that test information-usefulness by assuming it to be synonymous with price-sensitivity. We draw implications for further research into the role of tacit knowledge in equity investment decision-making, and also into the effects of the principal–agent relationship between fund managers and their clients.
This paper examines sell‐side analysts’ perceptions of ‘earnings quality’. Prior research suggests that analysts’ stock recommendations, price targets, earnings forecasts and written reports are relevant to share price formation. One of the main inputs in analysts’ forecasting and valuation models is earnings, and analysts’ perceptions of earnings quality are therefore important. There is, however, little direct evidence in the literature on what these perceptions are and on what role they have in decision‐making. This paper seeks first to understand earnings quality as interpreted by analysts, and it then tests this interpretation against its actual usage in analysts’ research reports. An inductive approach is used that combines interview data with content analysis, and the findings are interpreted in the light of findings from market‐based and other research. We find that the concept of earnings quality is both accounting‐based (relating to notions of core or sustainable earnings, cash and accrual components of earnings, and accounting policies) and non‐accounting‐based (relating to information drawn from outside the financial statements). We find more non‐accounting than accounting references to earnings quality, and that (relatively subjective) non‐accounting references are especially widely used where analysts express positive or negative opinions about earnings quality. It is relatively unusual for an analyst's opinion to be both negative and accounting‐ based. If, however, an analyst does express negative, accounting‐based views on earnings quality, then he or she is highly unlikely to be positive in other respects. We interpret this evidence to be consistent with analysts’ economic incentives to generate trading volume yet to be favourably biased towards companies, while seeking to use value‐relevant information relating to earnings. We also conclude that the importance of accounting‐based information relating to earnings quality is more important than it might seem, and that it exerts a significant influence on the analysis and recommendations in analysts’ reports.
This paper makes two contributions. First, it demonstrates that income and expenses are incorrectly defined in the IASB's conceptual framework, and it proposes alternative definitions. Second, the paper identifies that, in part as a consequence of these incorrect definitions, and in part because there are two, conflicting concepts of profit in IFRS, there is, first, no definition of profit in the Framework and, second, inconsistency and needless complexity in the concept of profit in IAS 1. The issues raised in this paper contribute to the current IASB projects on the conceptual framework and on financial statement presentation.
Because managers hold a status in society similar to that of doctors and lawyers, it is natural to think of business as a profession--and of business schools as professional schools. But, argues Barker, a professor at Cambridge University's Judge Business School, that can lead to inappropriate analysis and misguided perceptions. We turn to professionals for advice, he writes, because they have knowledge that we don't. We trust their advice because they've been guaranteed by professional associations that establish the boundaries of the field and reach consensus on what body of learning is required for formal training and certification. These associations make a market for professional services feasible. Although business schools might be able to reach consensus on what they should teach, the proper question is whether what they teach qualifies students to manage. After all, successful businesses are commonly run by people without MBAs. Managers' roles are inherently general, variable, and indefinable; their core skill is to integrate across functional areas, groups of people, and circumstances. Integration is learned in the minds of MBA students, whose experiences and careers are widely diverse, rather than taught in the content of program modules. Thus business education must be highly collaborative, with grading downplayed, and learning must differ according to the stage of a student's career. Business schools are not professional schools. They are incubators for business leadership.
This paper addresses an important issue of presentation in the financial statements, namely the distinction between, on the one hand, the obligations and associated flows arising from the provision of finance to an entity ('financing') and, on the other hand, all other activities of the entity ('operating'). This operating‐financing distinction has been wellestablished in the finance literature since the work of Miller and Modigliani (1958, 1961) and is ubiquitous and of considerable importance in practice in financial markets (e.g. Koller et al., 2005; CFA Institute, 2005; Penman, 2006). Yet accounting standards are underdeveloped in this area, and there are gaps and inconsistencies in both IFRS and US GAAP. Drawing upon the distinction between nature and function in the presentation of financial statement information, the paper contributes, first, to enhance our theoretical understanding of the operating‐financing distinction, which is currently defined in different and unreconciled ways in the literature and, second, to propose a practical basis for accounting standard‐setters to determine requirements for the reporting of financing activity in the financial statements.
Purpose - To find out how UK investment analysts use valuation models.
Design/methodology/approach - Cites prior studies using residual income and discounted cash flow (DCF) models, while proposing to interview analysts. Combines content analysis of 98 equity reports by investment bank analysts between 2000 and 2003, and 35 structured interview responses (in the form of Likert scales) about what models they use, why they use them and how.
Findings - Finds that analysts prefer DCF to accruals-based methods, and combine it with price to earnings ratios. Notes they have many reasons for choosing this model, but it is most heavily used on IT and media firms. Adds a distinct preference for DCF among buy-side analysts.
Research limitations/implications - Proposes setting up the discipline of 'sociology of financial accounting'. where sell-side analysts interact with fund managers.
Originality/value - Uses a direct approach to the questgion of how accounts are used by third parties.
In this paper we use interview data to explore the 'new shareholder activism' of mainstream UK institutional investors. We describe contemporary practices of corporate governance monitoring and engagement and how they vary across institutions, and explore the motivations behind them. Existing studies of shareholder activism mainly assume that it is motivated by a desire to maximise shareholder value, and we find some evidence both of this and of alternative political/moral motivations related to ideas of responsible ownership. We conclude, however, that in the current situation both these act primarily as rationalisations rather than as genuine motivators. The main driving force behind the new shareholder activism is the institutions' own profit maximisation and the need to position themselves against competitor institutions in the context of political and regulatory changes that have significantly changed the non-financial expectations of their clients.
We draw on a series of in-depth interviews with senior managers from institutional investors and large listed corporations to explore how different conceptualizations of institutional investors, their role in the corporate governance process, and their interactions with corporate management, are reflected in the accounts of the actors concerned. We find that the conceptualizations in terms of ownership and agency that dominate both academic and popular discourses are marginal to the actors’ accounts. Rather, both fund managers and company managers conceptualize institutional investors primarily as financial traders who happen, as a result of their trading, to control key resources, but whose interests are effectively divorced from those of long-term share owners. Our analysis suggests that far from being mitigated by the large share blocks of institutional investors, as some commentators have suggested, the separation of ownership from control has been compounded in the UK by a separation of accountability from responsibility, with the interests of the institutions holding managers accountable being quite different from those of the owner-beneficiaries to whom they feel responsible. This raises significant challenges for corporate governance policy as well as new issues for research into the governance process.
Purpose - To explore the effects of meetings between company executives and fund managers.
Design/methodology/approach - Recognizes the increasing importance of these face-to-face meetings, reviews relevant research and draws on information from interviews with finance directors and investor relations managers from 13 FTSE 100 companies (part of a larger study) and observations of meetings to assess their effects. Applies Foucault's ideas on the indivisibility of the power/knowledge nexus to look at information and control impacts of these meetings on investors and directors.
Findings - Meetings are an exercise of disciplinry power and acknowledge the rights of shareholders to monitor managers' performance and to hold them accountable. Executives see them as an opportunity to influence investors' perceptions, take great care to prepare for them and focus mainly on explaining company strategy. They may be forced to symbolize shareholder value but this gives them added power to speak for the shareholder within the business and thus affect strategy. This is reinforced by the increased use of performance-related pay and options.
Research limitations/implications - More work is needed and promised on the influence of fund managers.
Originality/value - Reflects on the personal and corporate impact of company/fund manager meetings.
Government has been pressing one group in civil society - financial institutions - to regulate the behavior of another group - the companies in which they invest. We consider the implications of this and assess the prospects for success, drawing on evidence obtained in our recent study of the preparation, conduct and consequences of regular face to face meetings between fund managers and senior executives.
Income, expenses, gains, and losses with similar informational properties can, in principle, be aggregated and presented as subsets of comprehensive income without losing information. Of particular importance is the splitting of comprehensive income into earnings and all other items. Earnings is typically conceptualized as an aggregation that excludes items that are nonoperating, nonrecurring, or outside management's control. This paper analyzes the concept of earnings and finds that it cannot be defined satisfactorily for the purposes of an accounting standard. The paper proposes an alternative approach to the reporting of financial performance, which provides a useful disaggregation of comprehensive income without attempting to define earnings. This approach is based upon the separate presentation, in a matrix format, of remeasurements, which are amounts resulting from revisions to the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities. This approach is shown to parallel the concept of earnings in its predictive and feedback properties, yet it is also shown to have additional benefits. In particular, the proposed approach has a relatively objective, consistently applied measurement basis, it displays clearly the effects of the mixed attribute accounting model, and it facilitates analysis of the effects of measurement subjectivity on reported financial performance. The analysis in this paper has been discussed extensively by the IASB and is expected, in due course, to form part of an IASB public consultative document.
The article discusses the corporate shift toward global financial reporting standards, and what that change will mean to United States businesses. The article states that by 2005, there will likely be only two accounting boards with a dominating influence on global reporting: the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or FASB, and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). In addition, the article remarks that, as per an agreement reached in 2002, the IASB and the FASB will increasingly work to align their standards.
Problems in financial reporting are often blamed on the rules. In trying to outlaw the system of “smoothing” which covered up many sins the rule-makers have been accused of simply making figures more volatile and less understandable. The author looks at the idea of performance measurement based on the simplicity of a single income statement and explains how it will transform financial reporting.
This paper examines analysts' use of earnings information and draws implications for the stock market role of the financial reporting regulator. Evidence from participant observation and from interview research suggests that: first, analysts treat the announcement of earnings with immediacy and importance and, further, they make use of the components of FRS3 in extracting a measure of ‘normalised' earnings; second, analysts do not, however, have a rational economic incentive to regard accounting information as their exclusive (or even their primary) focus of interest, and therefore financial statement analysis is not necessarily their core competence; third, analysts’ interpretation and use of earnings information is rather superficial, and there is limited understanding of underlying issues of recognition and measurement, and also of the interactions between earnings and the balance sheet. Overall, the analysis suggests an important role for the financial reporting regulator in compensating for analysts' inherent ‘disinterest’ in accounting. Financial reporting standards must be designed such that their actual content is consistent with the analysts' (uninformed) expectations of this content, otherwise the analysts' limited understanding will generate false assumptions and, thereby, unintended real effects on share prices.
Asserts that valuation models are not used exclusively to value shares, but that variables such as dividend yield are preferred by analysts to the dividend discount model. Surveys 42 questionnaires from financial analysts, 40 semi-structured interviews with finance directors, 32 with analysts, 39 with fund managers, and undertakes one month's participant observation in an analyst's firm, between 1994 and 1996. Finds out what models they use and what financial ratios. Identifies important information sources for analysts and fund managers, and asks financial directors why they decide on a particular dividend value. Concludes that decisions are short-term and information is used which has a certain payoff; while each group plays games with the others.
Prior research has shown that analysts’ preferred valuation models are the price-earnings (PE) ratio and the dividend yield. This paper presents strong evidence that the relative importance of these two models varies according to stock market sector. Companies in the services, industrials and consumer goods sectors are shown to be ‘PE-valued’ while financials and utilities companies are shown to be ‘yield-valued’. These findings are derived from survey research and then tested in a market-based model. This use of independent, mutually reinforcing research methods contributes to the robustness of the findings.
The theoretical distinction between information efficiency and fundamental efficiency suggests an important question for accounting research, which is whether (and to what extent) there exists an equilibrium mechanism whereby fund managers investment decisions can be fully informed. This question is approached in this paper by means of developing a grounded theory of the market for information. The theory is derived from a (mostly interview-based) empirical analysis of the economic incentives of finance directors, analysts and fund managers with respect to stock market information flows. The evidence suggests a two-part theory. First, it is argued that ‘raw’ data flowing directly from companies is of considerably greater importance to fund managers than ‘processed’ data generated by analysts. Second, analysts are nevertheless argued to play an important role in the market for information, as both mechanisms of information efficiency and as providers of benchmarks for consensus valuation. This theory implies that the research literature has paid insufficient attention to the role of accounting information in direct communication between companies and fund managers and, related to this, that the role of analysts in share price determination has been overstated and only superficially understood.