The Role of Information Asymmetry in CSR Reporting: A Comparison of Publicly-Traded and Privately-Held Firms

40 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2018  

Leila Hickman

University of New Mexico - Department of Accounting

Date Written: February 9, 2018

Abstract

There is no consensus in the literature regarding what motivates firms to voluntarily publish corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports or who are the intended audiences of such reports. To help address this gap in the literature, I test whether the degree of information asymmetry between the firm and its owners is a significant factor contributing to the publication of CSR reports. The study is the first to analyze the reporting frequencies of both publicly-traded firms and privately-held firms whose ownership is subject to less information asymmetry. Using a sample of 239 of the largest private companies in the U.S. matched with publicly-traded firms, the effect of ownership structure on CSR reporting frequency is tested using logistic regression. Factors suggested by stakeholder and legitimacy theories, including firm size, firm visibility, customer power, and employee power are also tested. Results indicate that private firms are much less likely to publish a CSR report than similar public firms. Public firms are also found to follow the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines at a higher rate than private firms, in-keeping with a greater need to signal report quality to dispersed investors. Private firms reporting to the SEC because they have over 300 shareholders, anticipate an IPO, or have publicly-traded debt are found to be similar to public firms in their reporting behavior. Since the information environment of these firms represents a middle-ground between public companies and typical private firms, their reporting behavior reinforces the argument that information asymmetry is a motivation for voluntary CSR disclosure.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, Information Asymmetry, Ownership Structure, Private Firms, Stakeholder Theory, Legitimacy Theory

Suggested Citation

Hickman, Leila, The Role of Information Asymmetry in CSR Reporting: A Comparison of Publicly-Traded and Privately-Held Firms (February 9, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3121275 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3121275

Leila Hickman (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico - Department of Accounting ( email )

Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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