Associate Professor of Business Administration
Suraj Srinivasan is an Associate Professor in the Accounting and Management area at Harvard Business School. He teaches the second year MBA elective Business Analysis and Valuation Using Financial Statements and to executives, Strategic Financial Analysis for Business Evaluation. He also teaches in corporate governance programs sMaking Corporate Boards More effective, Audit Committees in a New Era of Governance and Compensation Committees: New Challenges, New Solutions. Prior to joining HBS, Professor Srinivasan was an Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business from 2004 – 2008 where he received the Ernest R. Wish Accounting Research prize in 2007.
Professor Srinivasan’s research examines corporate governance in the U.S. and internationally. He has studied issues such as the impact of globalization on corporate disclosure practices and compensation arrangements in international companies, the effect of securities regulation on incentives of companies to cross list in the U.S., incentives of audit firms to provide high quality audits, and reputational consequences for corporate directors when companies experience financial reporting problems.
Professor Srinivasan earned a bachelor's degree with honors in electrical and electronics engineering and a master's degree in physics with honors from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences in India prior to earning an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. He also received a doctorate degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 2004 where he received the George S. Dively Award for outstanding thesis research.
SOX after Ten Years: A Multidisciplinary Review
We review and assess research findings from 120+ papers in accounting, finance, and law to evaluate the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. We describe significant developments in how the Act was implemented and find that despite severe criticism, the Act and institutions it created have survived almost intact since enactment. We report survey findings from informed parties that suggest that the Act has produced financial reporting benefits. While the direct costs of the Act were substantial and fell disproportionately on smaller companies, costs have fallen over time and in response to changes in its implementation. Research about indirect costs such as loss of risk taking in the U.S. is inconclusive. The evidence for and social welfare implications of claimed effects such as fewer IPOs or loss of foreign listings are unclear. Financial reporting quality appears to have gone up after SOX but research on causal attribution is weak. On balance, research on the Act's net social welfare remains inconclusive. We end by outlining challenges facing research in this area, and propose an agenda for better modeling costs and benefits of financial regulation.
Case Study: A Short-Seller Crashes the Party
When the well-known hedge fund manager and short-seller Jeremiah Hughes first put Terranola in the spotlight, issuing ominous warnings about unsold products, a looming patent expiration, and flawed growth projections, the considered judgment of the executive team was to do nothing.
“I refuse to dignify this attack with a response,” said Henry Guillart, the CEO, just hours after Hughes had given his initial negative presentation at an investor conference in New York. That decision turned out to have serious consequences. Terranola’s stock began tanking that afternoon, precipitating a slide that took the Seattle-based company’s reputation, employee morale, and ability to raise capital along with it.
A month later, when Hughes mounted a second attack, everyone expected Terranola to counter. But behind closed doors, its leaders were torn: They realized that responding this time might lead to even more trouble.
Do Analysts Follow Managers Who Switch Companies? An Analysis of Relationships in the Capital Markets
We examine the importance of professional relationships developed between analysts and managers by investigating analyst coverage decisions in the context of CEO and CFO moves between publicly listed firms. We find that top executive moves from an origin firm to a destination firm trigger analysts following the origin firm to initiate coverage of the destination firm in 10% of our sample, which is significantly higher than in a matched sample. Analyst-manager “co-migration” is significantly stronger when both firms are within the same industry. Analysts who move with managers to the destination firm exhibit more intense and accurate coverage of the origin firm than they do in other firms and compared to other analysts covering the origin firm. The advantage no longer holds after the executive’s departure, and most of the analysts’ advantage does not carry over to the destination firm. However, the analysts do increase the overall market capitalization of firms in their coverage portfolio. Our results hold after Regulation Fair Disclosure, suggesting that these relationships are not based on selective disclosure. Overall, the evidence shows both the importance and limitations of professional relations in capital markets.
Accountability of Independent Directors—Evidence from Firms Subject to Securities Litigation
We examine which independent directors are held accountable when investors sue firms for financial and disclosure related fraud. Investors can name independent directors as defendants in lawsuits, and they can vote against their re-election to express displeasure over the directors’ ineffectiveness at monitoring managers. In a sample of securities class-action lawsuits from 1996 to 2010, about 11% of independent directors are named as defendants. The likelihood of being named is greater for audit committee members and directors who sell stock during the class period. Named directors receive more negative recommendations from Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), a proxy advisory firm, and significantly more negative votes from shareholders than directors in a benchmark sample. They are also more likely than other independent directors to leave sued firms. Overall, shareholders use litigation, along with director elections and director retention, to hold some independent directors more accountable than others when firms experience financial fraud.
Diamond Foods, Inc.
The Diamonds Foods, Inc. case describes the major accounting blow up at the company in late 2011 that was triggered by a report by Off Wall Street, a prominent short selling research firm. Diamond Foods, a high flying growth company in 2011, grew from a walnut farmers' cooperative in 2005 into a branded snack foods manufacturer on the strength of a series of acquisitions. The accounting scandal that involved improper accounting for walnut purchases led to Diamond dropping its high profile acquisition of Pringles, an SEC and DOJ investigation, departure of the CEO and CFO, and the grounding of a high flying growth company. The case describes the history and growth of the company, the investigative and analytical work conducted by OWS and allows students to understand implications of the growth strategy for financial performance and valuation. Additionally, the case highlights the role of corporate boards and audit committees in managing strategic and financial reporting risks.
First Solar: CFRA's Accounting Quality Concerns
The case relates to accounting quality analysis conducted by the leading research firm Center for Financial Research and Analysis (CFRA) on companies in the solar industry with a focus on First Solar Inc. In 2009, CFRA was concerned that First Solar, like much of the solar industry, was facing deterioration in business prospects and exposed to risks arising from revenue recognition, high inventory levels, lack of customer and geographic diversification, aggressive warranty policies, excessive production capacity growth, and supply chain risks. The case places students in the shoes of CFRA analysts who need to assess First Solar's accounting quality and business prospects after the company releases its second quarter financial numbers in 2009. The case provides students with background information on the solar power industry, First Solar, data from CFRA research, and First Solar's quarterly reports and the earnings conference call to analyze and draw conclusions about First Solar's accounting practices and strength as a company. Students have to decide whether CFRA should flag First Solar as a concern and add it to CFRA's "Biggest Concerns" list.