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Intangible Assets and Firms' Disclosures: An Empirical Investigation

David S. Gelb

Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, 2002, vol. 29, issue 3‐4, 457-476

Abstract: This study examines how research and development (R&38;D) and advertising expenditures affect firms' disclosures. Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) mandate that these expenditures be immediately expensed in financial reports, despite the fact that they often benefit the firm for longer periods. Prior studies find, however, that investors consider intangible assets in their valuation of firms. These studies argue that current GAAP, by not recognizing the value generated by these assets, severely impairs the usefulness of accounting reports. I investigate if firms with higher levels of R&38;D and advertising expenditures place greater reliance on voluntary, and therefore more flexible, disclosures such as voluntary publications and investor relations. Using analysts' ratings of firms' disclosures, I find that firms with higher levels of intangible assets are more likely to receive significantly higher ratings for their investor relations programs or voluntary publications than for their annual reports. These findings suggest that firms with higher levels of intangible assets emphasize supplemental disclosures because mandated accounting disclosures inadequately present their financial performance. These results have important policy implications for regulators and investors since they indicate that voluntary disclosures, which are unregulated and unaudited, are an important means of disclosure for these firms.

Date: 2002
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