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Room for improvement: the impact of bad losses on board quality

Mark B. Mulcahy (Accounting, Finance & Information Systems, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland)

Journal of Applied Accounting Research

ISSN: 0967-5426

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to study the relationship between reporting a loss and changes in board quality. Low quality corporate governance is associated with adverse accounting outcomes and is characterised by the lack of non-executive and independent directors on the board. Changes in these board quality indicators in response to the reporting of a loss and conditioned by the severity of the loss are examined.


This study uses four years of board information spanning the report of an initial loss for companies listed on the UK stock exchange. An industry and size matched control sample is used in a difference-in-difference analysis to isolate the impact of the loss from underlying changes in board quality.


Overall the results indicate that more severe initial loss events precipitate improvements in board quality over and above the control sample as well as less severe loss events.

Research limitations/implications

Although unambiguous, the reporting of a loss is only one measure of underperformance. Also the board quality indicators used in this study are two from several individual corporate governance variables and amalgamations used in the extent literature.

Practical implications

The findings demonstrate that the relationship between corporate governance and performance is endogenous and that the majority of any improvement in board quality actually anticipates the reporting of the loss. Any celebration of improvements in governance need to be tempered by an understanding of the precariousness of the firms at which these improvements are made.


This study contributes to a research stream that examines negative shocks, and losses in particular, as an event likely to precipitate firm-level changes in board quality, i.e. firms tend not to make improvements to board quality without the impetus to do so.



B. Mulcahy, M. (2014), "Room for improvement: the impact of bad losses on board quality", Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 255-272.



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