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Uniform Versus Discretionary Regimes in Reporting Information with Unverifiable Precision and a Coordination Role

Qi Chen, Tracy R. Lewis, Katherine Schipper and Yun Zhang

Journal of Accounting Research, 2017, vol. 55, issue 1, 153-196

Abstract: We examine uniform and discretionary regimes for reporting information about firm performance from the perspective of a standard setter, in a setting where the precision of reported information is difficult to verify and the reported information can help coordinate decisions by users of the information. The standard setter's task is to choose a reporting regime to maximize the expected decision value of reported information for all users at all firms. The uniform regime requires all firms to report using the same set of reporting methods regardless of the precision of their information, and the discretionary regime allows firms to freely condition their sets of reporting methods on the precision of their information. We show that when unverifiable information precision varies across firms and users' decisions based on reported information have strong strategic complementarities, a uniform regime can have a beneficial social effect as compared to a discretionary reporting regime. Our analysis generates both normative and positive implications for evaluating the necessity and effectiveness of reporting under standards.

Date: 2017
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Journal of Accounting Research is currently edited by Philip G. Berger, Luzi Hail, Christian Leuz, Haresh Sapra, Douglas J. Skinner, Rodrigo Verdi and Regina Wittenberg Moerman

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