Abigail M. Allen

Lecturer of Business Administration

Unit: Accounting and Management

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(617) 495-6222

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Abigail Allen is a lecturer of business administration in the Accounting & Management unit at Harvard Business School.  Her dissertation research focused on the financial accounting standard setting process. Specifically, her research investigates the impacts of regulator backgrounds, constituent preferences, and lobbying incentives in the FASB’s agenda decisions and the final determination of US GAAP.  Professor Allen’s work is forthcoming in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, and it has been cited and discussed in Forbes Magazine and the Harvard Business Review.  Her  other research interests include the economic consequences of accounting regulation, globalization of accounting standards, fair value accounting, revenue recognition, voluntary disclosure, and sustainability reporting.

Professor Allen graduated with her D.B.A in Accounting and Management from Harvard Business School and also holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in Accounting from University of Southern California. Prior to obtaining her doctorate, Professor Allen worked for Deloitte and Touche as an external auditor in Silicon Valley where she became licensed as a CPA.

Professor Allen is the proud mother of 2 children born during her doctoral studies (Alec Allen 1/25/2011 and Elise Allen 3/23/2013). In her free time, she enjoys tennis, snowboarding, scuba and chess.

    Publications

    Journal Articles

    1. Towards an Understanding of the Role of Standard Setters in Standard Setting

      We investigate the effect of standard setters in standard setting: we examine how certain professional and political characteristics of FASB members and SEC commissioners predict the accounting "reliability" and "relevance" of proposed standards. Notably, we find FASB members with backgrounds in financial services are more likely to propose standards that decrease "reliability" and increase "relevance," partly due to their tendency to propose fair-value methods. We find opposite results for FASB members affiliated with the Democratic Party, although only when excluding a financial-services background as an independent variable. Jackknife procedures show that results are robust to omitting any individual standard setter.

      Keywords: accounting; FASB; politics; relevance; reliability; standard setting; Accounting; Standards; Fair Value Accounting; Government and Politics; Personal Characteristics;

      Citation:

      Allen, Abigail M., and Karthik Ramanna. "Towards an Understanding of the Role of Standard Setters in Standard Setting." Journal of Accounting & Economics 55, no. 1 (February 2013): 66–90.

    Working Papers

    1. The Auditing Oligopoly and Lobbying on Accounting Standards

      We examine how the tightening of the U.S. auditing oligopoly over the last twenty-five years—from the Big 8 to the Big 6, the Big 5, and, then, the Big 4—has affected the incentives of the Big N, as manifest in their lobbying preferences on accounting standards. We find, as the oligopoly has tightened, Big N auditors are more likely to express concerns about decreased "reliability" in FASB-proposed accounting standards (relative to an independent benchmark); this finding is robust to controls for various alternative explanations. The results are consistent with the Big N auditors facing greater political and litigation costs attributable to their increased visibility from tightening oligopoly and with decreased competitive pressure among the Big N to satisfy client preferences (who, relative to auditors, favor accounting flexibility over reliability). The results are inconsistent with the claim that the Big N increasingly consider themselves "too big to fail" as the audit oligopoly tightens.

      Keywords: Standards; Accounting Audits; Accounting Industry; United States;

      Citation:

      Allen, Abigail M., Karthik Ramanna, and Sugata Roychowdhury. "The Auditing Oligopoly and Lobbying on Accounting Standards." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-054, December 2012. (Revised August 2013.)

      Research Summary

    1. Overview

      Abigail's research to date has focused on the financial accounting standard setting process. Specifically, her current projects investigate the impacts of regulator backgrounds, constituent preferences, and lobbying incentives in the determination of US GAAP. Her job-market paper explores formation of the FASB's technical agenda and provides evidence on the influence of constituent preferences on project selection. Abigail's other research interests include the economic consequences of accounting regulation, globalization of accounting standards, fair value accounting, and voluntary disclosure.

      Keywords: Financial Accounting; political economy; capital markets; fair value accounting; disclosure; International Accounting Standards;