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Accounting for Stakeholders or Shareholders? The Case of R&D Reporting

Yuan Ding, Thomas Jeanjean and Hervé Stolowy ()

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Abstract: Accounting numbers (and especially net income, equity or total assets) are based on conventions that are shaped by accounting standard setters. Elected choices result from a trade-off between the information needs of various stakeholders. This paper investigates how accounting choices meet the information needs of various stakeholders. Analyzing the R&D policy of Renault, one of the largest carmakers in Europe, over ten years (from 2002 to 2011), the paper illustrates how Renault modifies its R&D accounting policy from total expensing (a static convention) to capitalization (a dynamic convention), coping with the shift from State capitalism dominance to professional shareholder emphasis. Our findings are based on a content analysis of analysts' reactions to Renault accounting choices as well an extensive analysis of the documentation related to Renault (annual reports, presentations to analysts, conference call transcripts). Interestingly, while the R&D capitalization, promoted by the international accounting standard setter (the International Accounting Standards Board - IASB) in line with its advocacy of investors' interest as the principal recipient of accounting information, is supposed to help investors better understand the firm future cash flow, Renault's choice has been constantly challenged, even doubted by analysts. Our findings contradict the conventional wisdom in which shareholders should prefer dynamic conventions of accounting over static conventions while from its inception, the IASB purposely decided to favor investors over other stakeholders and promoted dynamic options of accounting choices.

Keywords: Stakeholder; R&D capitalization; Renault; accounting (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013-05-31
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-acc and nep-ino
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Published in Comptabilité sans Frontières..The French Connection, May 2013, Canada.

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