Voluntary Disclosure in a Multi-Audience Setting: An Empirical Investigation
Posted: 25 Aug 2004
Theory suggests that voluntary disclosure decisions are a function of conflicting incentives vis-a-vis multiple audiences. However, few opportunities exist to investigate this issue empirically. We identify a setting that offers us such an opportunity: the electric utility industry as it transitions toward deregulation. We consider two types of voluntary disclosures: strategies to protect the firm's existing customer base and plans to exploit emerging opportunities under deregulation. We examine these particular disclosures since they are voluntary, relevant to all sample firms, and convey positive information about the firm's prospects in a deregulated environment. We consider three target audiences: industry regulators, capital market participants, and product market competitors. We find that our disclosure index is negatively associated with the magnitude of utilities' stranded costs in jurisdictions where the stranded cost recovery issue is unresolved, consistent with our predicted regulatory incentives. Further, our evidence indicates that capital market-related incentives are positively associated with our disclosure index. Finally, we find that product market-related incentives play a deterrent role in disclosure, but only after regulatory concerns have been resolved.
Keywords: Voluntary disclosure, disclosure incentives, electric utilities, deregulation
JEL Classification: M41, M45, L94
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation