Corporate Disclosures Regulations : Social Solution or a Problem?

Abstract: Regulations are argued to have the answer to solving various social and economic problems that society faces today (e.g., climate change, tax evasion, etc.). However, regulations may instead become the problem (e.g., overregulation). The central research question of this doctoral thesis is “are corporate disclosures regulations a social solution or a problem?” To answer the central research question, Papers I and II examine the economic effects of an EU-wide audit reform, the Annual Accounts Directive: 2013/34/EU, on firms and the society. Papers III, IV, and V examine firm behavior to assess the need for public regulation of nonfinancial reporting in the light of an EU-wide reform, the Nonfinancial Reporting Directive: 2014/95/EU, commonly known as the NFRD.The thesis posits that the current implementations of these reforms in some settings are imperfect and thus costly for the firms and society. It recommends deregulation of the monitoring of financial disclosure, i.e., to allow more small firms the option of deciding if an audit is beneficial for them or not. On the other hand, recommends a different approach for regulating nonfinancial reporting, e.g., sustainability reporting. For instance, regulations that can influence firms’ governance structure, e.g., board diversity. A firm with a diverse board is more likely to adopt a sustainability agenda which is better aligned with the expectations of the EU regulators. Stakeholders use firms’ disclosures to evaluate its performance and behavior for various decision making. For example, shareholders, in their investing or divesting decisions; analysts, in making various forecasts and recommendations; or governments, in assessing the need for reforms. Historically, stakeholders commonly used financial information for these types of decision making. Hence, there are well established generic measures to evaluate firms’ financial information (e.g., earnings quality measures and financial-statement ratios). Nowadays, stakeholders are increasingly using firms’ sustainability related information in their decision-making process as well. However, replicable and scalable generic measures to evaluate such information are missing. This thesis develops objective approaches and a generic measure, to evaluate firms’ sustainability related disclosures. The developed approaches for analyzing unstructured text data may be applied to other fields that can benefit from the use of natural language processing tools.