Accounting

The effortful nature of risk management practice

In managing risk, organizational actors are constantly engaged in the work of representing it. From a philosophical point of view, this co-mingling of risk and representation is unsurprising. Risks are contingencies or future possibilities which have not yet crystallized into events. As non-real possibilities, they literally do not exist and cannot be seen until they are represented and processed […]

Harmonising accounting standards across the globe

Over a decade has passed since the European Union (EU) mandated a uniform set of accounting standards, i.e. International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), for all companies listed on the major European stock exchanges in 2005. Since then, over 100 countries are currently requiring their listed firms to prepare financial reports either under IFRS or under a closely linked accounting […]

Challenging the accountability agenda for NGOs

The past two decades have seen a steady increase in the number of organizations that prescribe accountability measures to improve the perception of trustworthiness of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These include GuideStar (1994), the Sphere Project (1997), the Charity Navigator (2001), the INGO Accountability Charter (2008), and the Core Humanitarian Standard (2014). This push for accountability measures reflects a wider trend in NGO self-regulation as the best means to promote good […]

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    The risk culture in financial institutions needs fixing, but how?

The risk culture in financial institutions needs fixing, but how?

Canary Wharf Skyline, by David Iliff, under a CC-BY-SA-3.0 licence
In the aftermath of the financial crisis and other large scale corporate scandals, a large number of public inquires and documents written by regulators, consulting firms and professional associations drew attention to something that needs fixing: the risk culture of financial sector organisations (see, for example, publications by the International institute of Finance, the Financial […]

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    Measuring social impact is complicated and may create dysfunctional incentives

Measuring social impact is complicated and may create dysfunctional incentives

Home, by George Hodan, Public Domain
Increasingly, people who work for the good of humanity speak the language of business (G8, 2014). Social impact reporting has become best practice for many social enterprises, which use metrics such as ‘social return on investment’ as a means of quantifying their success. ‘Social impact’ can be seen as the social sector analogue of ‘profit’ in […]

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    Should auditors be reviewed by peers or should the state do it?

Should auditors be reviewed by peers or should the state do it?

Financial reporting and auditing are vital elements for global capital markets. The confidence in the financial market’s efficiency is bolstered by the trust placed in auditing being able to operate as an external controlling function, something that has led to the audit profession being perceived as the “guardians of truth in markets”. However, concerns over the guardians’ trustworthiness are […]

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    Why airplanes take off and land safely despite all the risks

Why airplanes take off and land safely despite all the risks

You are sitting on an airplane, enjoying the end of a flight back home. The flight lands ok, the pilot and crew thank you for choosing airline X – persuasively saying that they look forward to seeing you again on board – the doors open ok and you can happily disembark the aircraft. It happens for thousands of flights […]

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    Reducing budget slack may lead managers to focus on the short term

Reducing budget slack may lead managers to focus on the short term

Every time I see corporate accounting irregularities in the news I recall how a key finding in my doctoral research some time ago has remained relevant. The research showed support for a spillover effect between slack resources and managerial time horizon. Kind of like a ‘whack-a-mole’ effect. Slack refers to securing more resources (such as during an organization’s annual […]

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    Have unified standards made financial reporting more comparable?

Have unified standards made financial reporting more comparable?

The mandatory adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by European listed firms in 2005, accompanied by similar regulatory action worldwide, represents one of the most influential accounting rule changes in history. The switch from a diverse set of domestic financial reporting regulations to a common set of accounting standards has affected thousands of companies that differ in terms […]

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    Management control systems have evolved to address the need for innovation

Management control systems have evolved to address the need for innovation

Innovation is the adoption of an idea or behaviour pertaining to a product, service device system, policy or programme that is new to the adopting organisation. Innovation has been recognised as a significant aspect of corporate survival. This has become particularly apparent in recent years as firms are increasingly operating in highly competitive markets where technologies are constantly developing, […]

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    Community involvement lends legitimacy to firms’ social accounting

Community involvement lends legitimacy to firms’ social accounting

Social accounting is a broad term describing a range of company reports on community or wider stakeholder engagement. It is often viewed as a simple process of one-way communication as a company seeks to put forward an account of its social impact. It is less regulated in form than financial accounting, and its purpose is usually framed as winning […]

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    Evidence suggests that firms set targets to avoid small losses

Evidence suggests that firms set targets to avoid small losses

The first picture shows the distribution of actual earnings in our study on target setting (see the study in brief box below) and replicates a well-established finding that reported earnings exhibit a ‘discontinuity at zero’ (meaning that there are disproportionally fewer firms with small losses compared to small profits), which one might surmise perhaps suggests that firms ‘manage’ earnings […]

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    With manager performance metrics, the tricky question is how to reward long-term thinking

With manager performance metrics, the tricky question is how to reward long-term thinking

Some time ago I was asked to comment on a study that found that the use of accounting return measures and non-financial measures in bonus plans was associated with managers’ long-term focus. This suggests that proper performance measurement systems can affect managers’ horizon and alleviate myopia.
Myopia is indeed a pervasive issue in business, as the Kay Review suggests (amongst countless others). The blame is often squarely […]

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    Managers with a history of good results get more flexible performance targets

Managers with a history of good results get more flexible performance targets

Here is one diehard maxim of business: don’t overshoot your performance target this year, because before you know it the one for next year will be tougher yet. This is target ratcheting at work: when you do better than the established goal, your next objective will be even higher; but the converse is not true. If you do worse, the company will […]

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    Hollywood studios appear to plan sequels before they produce the original movie

Hollywood studios appear to plan sequels before they produce the original movie

The recent box office success of Jurassic World, the latest Jurassic Park sequel, reminded me of my study about the use of real options in the motion picture industry*, which examined the application of this accounting tool to movie sequels.

A real option is the right, but not the obligation, to undertake a business decision. More importantly, a real-options approach to […]