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Is CSR performance related to disclosure tone in earnings announcements?

Yu Lu (Business School, Beijing Technology and Business University – Fucheng Road Campus, Beijing, China)
Steven Cahan (Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Diandian Ma (Graduate School of Management, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Accounting Research Journal

ISSN: 1030-9616

Article publication date: 1 July 2019

1225

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine whether the disclosure tone in earnings announcements is related to a firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance.

Design/methodology/approach

Considering the lower likelihood of earnings management conducted by CSR-conscious firms, and the significant market impact of the tone of disclosure in the earnings announcements, the study investigates whether firms with good CSR performance attempt to influence investors’ judgements through “soft information” and, thus, produce earnings announcements with more positive tone. Specifically, it examines whether CSR performance is positively related to the optimistic disclosure tone in earnings announcements.

Findings

The study finds that more socially responsible firms exhibit a more optimistic tone in earnings announcements. The findings are robust to a variety of sensitivity tests and data from different years. Furthermore, the study finds that the positive association between CSR performance and disclosure tone in the earnings announcement is particularly apparent in the manufacturing industry.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to the literature in multiple ways.

Practical implications

These findings should assist regulators in better understanding the verbal components in earnings announcements.

Social implications

It is possible that firms might opportunistically engage in CSR activities to enhance their social image to exaggerate financial performance and influence investors’ 2019 decisions.

Originality/value

These results show that CSR performance is positively associated with the optimistic tone in earnings announcements. The findings are consistent with two alternative interpretations. First, even though CSR-conscious firms are unlikely to engage in earnings management, they may engage a more subtle form of impressions/tone management. Second, firms with better CSR performance may have better financial performance, and thus are more confident and optimistic, resulting in a more positive tone in their earnings announcements. As the study controls for financial performance and find a positive relation between CSR concerns and optimism in earnings announcements, it favors the previous explanation.

Keywords

Citation

Lu, Y., Cahan, S. and Ma, D. (2019), "Is CSR performance related to disclosure tone in earnings announcements?", Accounting Research Journal, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 129-147. https://doi.org/10.1108/ARJ-05-2016-0059

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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