Non-answers during Conference Calls
60 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2019 Last revised: 31 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 3, 2019
We construct a novel measure of disclosure choice by firms. Our measure uses linguistic analysis of conference calls to flag a manager’s response as providing an explicit “non-answer” to an analyst’s question. Using our measure, about 11% of questions elicit non-answers, a rate that is stable over time and similar across industries. Consistent with extant theory, we find firms are less willing to disclose when competition is more intense, but more willing to disclose prior to raising capital. An important feature of our measure is that it yields several observations for each firm-quarter, which allows us to examine disclosure choice within a call as a function of properties of the question. We find product-related questions are associated with non-answers, and this association is stronger when competition is more intense, suggesting product-related information has higher proprietary cost. While firms are more forthcoming prior to raising capital, the within-call analyses for future-performance-related questions shows firms are less likely to answer future-performance-related questions shortly before equity or debt offerings when legal liability is higher.
Keywords: linguistic analysis, conference calls
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