Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2012

A Framework for Research on Corporate Accountability Reporting

by Karthik Ramanna

Abstract

This paper provides an accounting-based conceptual framing of the phenomenon of corporate accountability reporting. Such reporting is seen as arising from a delegator's (e.g., a citizenry) demand to hold a delegate (e.g., shareholders) to account. When effective, corporate accountability reporting can internalize certain externalities into firms' resource-allocation decisions, although doing so will not always serve shareholders' interests. I leverage the positive accounting literature's current understanding of properties of financial reports to develop three hypotheses on corporate accountability reporting. I argue that an accountability reporting system is likely to be more useful to a delegator if it: (1) mitigates information advantages across delegates and delegators; (2) reports both stocks and flows in the measures of account; and (3) has a mutually agreeable due process to match across periods the actions of delegates and the outcomes of those actions. I show how the successive incidence of these properties in observed corporate accountability reports can be used to determine whether and how those reports create or destroy value for shareholders and other constituencies.

Keywords: Integrated Corporate Reporting; For-Profit Firms; Framework; Corporate Accountability; Corporate Governance; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Research; Environmental Sustainability; Social Issues;

Citation:

Ramanna, Karthik. "A Framework for Research on Corporate Accountability Reporting." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 12-021, September 2011. (Revised July 2012, October 2012.)