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Article

Sami Bacha and Aymen Ajina

This study aims to examine the relationship between the corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance and the readability of annual report. The shareholder theory…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the relationship between the corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance and the readability of annual report. The shareholder theory suggests that CSR firms will provide more transparent disclosures because this reflects a socially and environmentally responsible behavior and a firm’s commitment to high ethical standards. In the same time, the agency theory offers an opposite view. It predicts that opportunistic managers use CSR as an entrenchment strategy and hide their maneuvers through complex textual financial disclosures.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a sample of 100 listed firms on the French CACAll-shares index over the period from 2013 to 2016, the authors use a panel regression analysis and run other estimation methods (IV-2SLS) and simultaneous equation model to address the endogeneity issues. They assess the readability of annual reports using the Gunning-Fog Index and the Flesch Index derived from the computational linguistics literature.

Findings

The results show a significant positive relationship between CSR performance and the readability of annual report. Firms engaging in CSR practices are more likely to provide transparent disclosures with higher readability because this reflects a socially responsible behavior and a firm’s commitment to high ethical standards. This result supports the stakeholder theory and the corporate reputational view. The finding is also robust to alternative readability measurements and to endogeneity bias.

Practical implications

This study helps all market participants to more comprehensively evaluate the CSR performance disclosed on annual report. It encourages managers to consider CSR as a means to prevent the opacity risk through improved information quality. It also drives French authorities to better regulate the narrative disclosure of CSR firms and change the way companies design their reporting practices. Moreover, it encourages CSR rating agencies to become the dominant definition of CSR evaluation by granting more importance to the quality of disclosed information.

Originality/value

This study extends previous research on the potential impact of CSR on information quality measured by annual report readability in the French context. Unlike prior studies on the impact of CSR on information quality, that focus exclusively on earnings management and adopt qualitative approaches to assess the SCR score, the authors use simultaneously the Gunning–Fog Index and the Flesch Index to assess the information quality and extract the CSR score from the CSRHub database of companies’ social, environmental and governance performance.

Details

Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society, vol. 20 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1472-0701

Keywords

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Article

Sami Bacha, Aymen Ajina and Sourour Ben Saad

This study aims to shed light on the effect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the cost of debt. It also investigates whether audit quality affects the cost of…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to shed light on the effect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on the cost of debt. It also investigates whether audit quality affects the cost of debt incurred by socially responsible firms.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a sample of French non-financial companies over the period 2005 to 2016, this paper uses panel data regressions. This paper re-estimates the model using Newey-West standard errors and the weighted-least-squares method. For further robustness, this paper runs instrumental variable regressions using the two-stage instrument variable method (two-stage least square).

Findings

The results show a negative relationship between CSR performance and the cost of debt, suggesting that financial institutions are likely to apply preferential costs for socially responsible firms. Financial institutions reward socially responsible companies as they recognize the potentiality of CSR to reduce firm risk and enhance its reputation. The findings also show that the perceived audit quality, along with CSR performance, are relevant to banks in the pricing of debt. The incremental audit quality, attributable to audits by the Big 4 auditors, decreases the cost of debt for CSR firms. Big 4 auditors are expected to, simultaneously, play information and insurance roles, thereby enhancing the firm risk profile. The results are robust to alternative audit quality measures (i.e. audit fees).

Practical implications

This study has important implications for managers and banks. Managers will be able to understand the effect of CSR on financing costs with relevant implications for strategic financing planning. Firms are also encouraged to signal their commitment to maintain a high-level quality reporting and reduce agency costs through their expenditure in auditing (i.e. hiring a large well-known audit firm). Moreover, this study sensitizes banking institutions to encourage the concept of socially responsible finance and consider soft information (i.e. involvement in societal issues, corporate citizen, trustworthiness, integrity and non-opportunistic behavior), as part of the credit decision-making and debt pricing process.

Originality/value

This study extends the literature on CSR and the cost of debt. Unlike prior studies, this paper focuses on the debt-pricing effects of audit quality for CSR firms. Audit quality is deemed to be an important governance feature that is likely to constraint opportunistic behaviors (i.e. CSR diversion) and play information and insurance roles to lenders. Audit quality (perceived or real), along with CSR performance, are associated with lower costs of debt.

Details

Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society, vol. 21 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1472-0701

Keywords

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Article

Aymen Ajina, Faten Lakhal and Danielle Sougné

– The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of institutional investors’ ownership and type on information asymmetry and stock market liquidity in France.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of institutional investors’ ownership and type on information asymmetry and stock market liquidity in France.

Design/methodology/approach

The sample includes 162 French-listed firms from 2007 to 2009. The methodology relies on linear regressions using the method of ordinary least square. Before examining the interaction between liquidity and institutional investors, the authors check for the existence of the endogeneity problem by applying the Durbin-Wu-Hausman test of Davidson and MacKinnon (1993). The results of the endogeneity test show that institutional investors’ ownership and stock liquidity are endogenous. A simultaneous equation model using the double least square method is then tested to address this problem.

Findings

The findings show that the proportion of institutional investors has a positive and significant effect on stock-market liquidity, which confirms the signal theory and trading hypothesis. These investors perform high trading activity which favorably affects market liquidity. The results also show that pension funds improve stock liquidity. This result suggests that pension funds manage huge assets decreasing transaction costs and improving liquidity. They display a positive signal to the market about more transparency and a low level of informational asymmetry.

Practical implications

These results highlight the institutional investors’ role in defining the level of liquidity on the French market. The findings also stress the relevance of developing institutional investors’ demand for the Paris market in order to better assess firm value, protect minority ownership and improve market liquidity.

Originality/value

In the French institutional setting, institutional investors act as a control device since minority shareholder interests are less protected than in Anglo-American counterparts. This result highlights the significant role of institutional investors in corporate governance structures and on financial markets. Their presence is a guarantee for minority interest protection and for more liquid stocks.

Details

International Journal of Managerial Finance, vol. 11 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1743-9132

Keywords

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Article

Tamanna Dalwai, Gopalakrishnan Chinnasamy and Syeeda Shafiya Mohammadi

The readability of annual reports is an important feature that determines the quality of communication between a firm and its stakeholders. Extant literature has…

Abstract

Purpose

The readability of annual reports is an important feature that determines the quality of communication between a firm and its stakeholders. Extant literature has demonstrated that readability characteristics of annual reports are crucial in facilitating the investor's ability to process and analyze information, resulting in higher firm performance and lower agency costs. This study examines the relationship between annual report readability, agency costs and the firm performance of listed financial sector companies in Oman.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a sample of 150 firm-year observations of listed financial sector companies on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) over the period 2014 to 2018, a panel regression analysis is used, along with the system generalized method of moments (GMM) estimation to address endogeneity concerns. The readability of annual reports is proxied by the length of the annual report, the Flesch reading ease and the Flesch–Kincaid index.

Findings

The ordinary least squares (OLS) results suggest that readability proxied by the length of the annual report has no significant relationship with agency cost, return on assets (ROA) or stock returns. The OLS results are confirmed through the system GMM estimation model for agency costs, Tobin's Q and stock returns. Easier-to-read annual reports measured by the Flesch reading ease demonstrate high asset utilization ratio and Tobin's Q. These results emphasize Flesch reading ease measure in explaining the economic significance of agency cost and Tobin's Q. In contrast, difficult-to-read annual reports are observed for firms with high ROA.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to the financial sector. Its generalizability could be extended to a similar sector or countries with features similar to Oman. Future studies on readability could be extended to other sectors of Oman, and financial firms with easier-to-read annual reports show a high Tobin's Q, which reflects the confidence of investors in the stock market. These findings may encourage policymakers to regulate the readability features of annual reports and influence the reporting quality of financials and disclosures also including cross-country comparisons.

Practical implications

Financial firms with easier-to-read annual reports show a high Tobin's Q, which reflects the confidence of investors in the stock market. These findings may encourage policymakers to regulate the readability features of annual reports and influence the reporting quality of financials and disclosures.

Originality/value

While the study extends prior literature on readability, agency costs and firm performance, it is also one of the first to examine the financial sector of an emerging country, namely, Oman. The study supports the obfuscation hypothesis through the association of readability measure with agency cost. Unlike prior research that has focused on common computational linguistic literature, this study uses three proxies for readability to assess information quality.

Details

Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies, vol. 11 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-1168

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Article

Dalia Hussein El-Sayed, Eman Adel, Omar Elmougy, Nadeen Fawzy, Nada Hatem and Farida Elhakey

This study examines whether manipulation in attributes of corporate narrative disclosures and the use of graphical representations can bias non-professional investors'…

Abstract

Purpose

This study examines whether manipulation in attributes of corporate narrative disclosures and the use of graphical representations can bias non-professional investors' judgment towards firms' future performance, in an emerging market context.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conduct three different experiments with a 2 × 2 between-subjects design, using accounting and finance senior undergraduate students to proxy for the non-professional investors.

Findings

Results show that simple (more readable) disclosures improve non-professional investors' judgment towards firms' future performance. In addition, it is found that non-professional investors are prone to a recency effect from the intentional ordering of narrative information, when using complex (less readable) narratives. However, no primacy effect is found, when using simple (more readable) disclosures. The results further provide evidence that the inclusion of graphical representations, along with the manipulated narrative disclosures, can moderate the recency effect of information order, when using less readable and complex narrative disclosures.

Research limitations/implications

The results reveal that although the content of corporate disclosures can be objective, neutral and relevant, manipulation in textual features and the use of graphical presentations, can interact to impact how non-professional investors perceive and process the disclosed information. This study provides an Egyptian evidence regarding this issue, as the majority of prior studies concentrate on developed capital markets. In addition, it contributes to prior studies evaluating the appropriateness of the Belief Adjustment Model predictions about the effect of textual presentation order on decision-making, by providing evidence from an emerging market.

Practical implications

Results attempt to increase the awareness of investors and encourage them to use multiple sources of information to avoid the probable bias that can result from management's manipulation of narratives. In addition, the study could be of interest to regulators and standard-setters, where the results reveal the need for guidelines and regulations to guide the disclosure of narrative information and the use of graphical information in corporate reports.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effect of two impression management strategies in narrative disclosures (readability and information order), along with the use of graphical representations, on non-professional investors' judgment in an emerging market, like Egypt.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 22 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

Keywords

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