Accounting Reporting Complexity and Non-GAAP Earnings Disclosure
58 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2018 Last revised: 21 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 20, 2020
We examine whether the complexity of mandatory accounting disclosures prompts managers to voluntarily disclose adjusted measures of actual earnings performance. We also explore whether this disclosure practice reflects attempts to obfuscate or to mitigate informational problems arising from accounting complexity. Using the metadata in XBRL filings, we construct measures of accounting complexity that map directly to the mandated standards applied in firms’ financial statement filings. We find a positive and economically significant association between accounting complexity and managers’ propensity to disclose non-GAAP earnings information. This relation is robust and incremental to common measures of business complexity and the language complexity of the financial report. We also find that the quality and informativeness of adjusted earnings information increases with accounting complexity, consistent with motives to better inform investors when accounting disclosures are complex. Overall, our results suggest that managers use non-GAAP earnings disclosure as an immediate response to accounting complexity.
Keywords: accounting complexity, non-GAAP earnings, XBRL, GAAP, voluntary disclosure
JEL Classification: M41, M43
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation