Complex Ownership Structures and Accounting Conservatism
50 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2009 Last revised: 2 Mar 2012
Date Written: February 2012
This study examines the use of accounting conservatism in firms with multiple controlling owners. In particular, we investigate the association between dispersion of cash-flow rights among controlling shareholders and accounting conservatism as well as how ownership type differences among controlling shareholders, family ownership, and legal institutions influence this association. Using a comprehensive, firm-level ownership dataset for thirteen Western European countries to conduct the empirical analysis, we find that: (1) dispersion of cash-flow rights across multiple large owners is positively associated with accounting conservatism; (2) the positive association between dispersion of cash-flow rights and accounting conservatism is more pronounced when controlling shareholders are of different types; (3) family ownership strengthens the positive association between dispersion of cash-flow rights and accounting conservatism; (4) the positive association between dispersion of cash-flow rights and accounting conservatism is more pronounced in countries with stronger legal institutions. This study contributes to the literature in a number of ways. First, this study highlights the importance of the second largest controlling shareholder in affecting the level of accounting conservatism. Second, this paper reinforces the important role played by ownership type differences among controlling shareholders in influencing the association between dispersion of cash-flow rights and accounting conservatism. Third, this paper strengthens the importance of family ownership in affecting agency problems between majority and minority shareholders. Fourth, this paper stresses the importance of legal institutions in influencing the installation of firm-level corporate governance mechanisms. Finally, the findings of this study have important implications for accounting standard setters attempting to eliminate conservatism in financial reports.
Keywords: Accounting conservatism, Ownership Structure, Legal Institutions
JEL Classification: M41, G32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation