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Unintended Consequences of Granting Small Firms Exemptions from Securities Regulation: Evidence from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act


Feng Gao


University of Illinois at Chicago

Joanna Shuang Wu


University of Rochester - Simon School of Business

Jerold L. Zimmerman


University of Rochester - Simon Business School

September 3, 2008

Journal of Accounting Research, Forthcoming
Simon School Working Paper No. FR 07-07

Abstract:     
This paper provides evidence about the unintended consequences arising when small companies are exempted from costly regulations - these firms have incentives to stay small. Between 2003 and 2008, the SEC postponed compliance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) for "non-accelerated filers" (firms with public float less than $75 million). We hypothesize and find that some of these firms had an incentive to remain below this bright line threshold. Moreover, we document that these firms remained small by undertaking less investment, making more cash payouts to shareholders, reducing the number of shares held by non-affiliates, making more bad news disclosures and reporting lower earnings than control firms. Finally, there is no evidence that firms remaining small are doing so to maintain insiders' private control benefits. These findings have implications beyond SOX because numerous federal and state regulations exempt small firms via bright line size thresholds.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 62

Keywords: unintended consequences, regulations, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Section 404

JEL Classification: G18, G31, G32, G35, K22, M41

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Date posted: September 14, 2007 ; Last revised: April 21, 2009

Suggested Citation

Gao, Feng and Wu, Joanna Shuang and Zimmerman, Jerold L., Unintended Consequences of Granting Small Firms Exemptions from Securities Regulation: Evidence from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (September 3, 2008). Journal of Accounting Research, Forthcoming; Simon School Working Paper No. FR 07-07. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1014054

Contact Information

Feng Gao
University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )
Accounting Department
Chicago, IL 60305
Joanna Shuang Wu (Contact Author)
University of Rochester - Simon School of Business ( email )
Carol Simon Hall 3-160D
Rochester, NY 14627
United States
585-275-5468 (Phone)
585-442-6323 (Fax)
Jerold L. Zimmerman
University of Rochester - Simon Business School ( email )
Rochester, NY 14627
United States
585-275-3397 (Phone)
585-442-6323 (Fax)
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