Managerial Empire Building and Firm Disclosure
University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management
Wayne B. Thomas
University of Oklahoma - Michael F. Price College of Business
January 30, 2008
This study tests the agency cost hypothesis in the context of geographic earnings disclosures. The agency cost hypothesis predicts that managers, when not monitored by shareholders, will make self-maximizing decisions which may not necessarily be in the best interest of shareholders. These decisions include aggressively growing the firm, which reduces profitability and destroys firm value. Geographic earnings disclosures provide an interesting context to examine this issue. Beginning with Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 131 (SFAS 131), most U.S. multinational firms are no longer required to disclose earnings by geographic area (e.g., net income in Mexico or net income in East Asia). Such non-disclosure potentially reduces the ability of shareholders to monitor managers' decisions related to foreign operations. Using a sample of U.S. multinationals with substantial foreign operations, we find that non-disclosing firms, relative to firms that continue to disclose geographic earnings, experience greater expansion of foreign sales, produce lower foreign profit margins, and have lower firm value in the post-SFAS 131 period. Our conclusions are strengthened by the fact that these differences do not exist in the pre-SFAS 131 period and do not relate to domestic operations. We find differences in the predicted direction only for foreign operations and only after adoption of SFAS 131. Our results are robust to the inclusion of an extensive set of control variables related to alternative corporate governance mechanisms, operating performance, and the firm's information environment. Overall, the results are consistent with the agency cost hypothesis and the important role of financial disclosures in monitoring managers.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
Keywords: Empire building, disclosure, agency cost hypothesis, SFAS 131
JEL Classification: G31, G34, L21, L51, M41, M44, M45working papers series
Date posted: July 7, 2007 ; Last revised: February 1, 2008
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