Professor of Business Administration
Suraj Srinivasan is a Professor in the Accounting and Management area at Harvard Business School. He is currently the course-head for the HBS required course Financial Reporting and Control. He also teaches to executives, Strategic Financial Analysis for Business Evaluation, and in corporate governance programs Making Corporate Boards More Effective, Audit Committees in a New Era of Governance and Compensation Committees: New Challenges, New Solutions, in the elective course Business Analysis and Valuation using Financial Statements and in HBS doctoral programs. 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 and case writing examines the institutions of 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. His research has been published in leading academic journals such as the Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Accounting Research, and The Accounting Review among others. He is currently the co-Department Editor for Accounting at Management Science and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Accounting Research.
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.
Case Study: Alibaba Goes Public
In 2014 Alibaba debuted on the New York Stock exchange, creating not only the largest IPO in history but this initial desire to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was denied due to the company's desire to preserve its partner's control over decision rights. Why did Hong Kong deny Alibaba's requests to list dual-class shares or to allow its partners to nominate a majority of the board of directors, and in the process turn away a superstar in Alibaba? Why did American stock markets approve of Alibaba's governance structures, despite the warnings of many governance experts? How can investors ensure that their capital would be deployed effectively by the company's top management?
Case Study: Southeastern Asset Management Challenges Buyout at Dell
In late 2012, Michael Dell wants to take Dell Inc., the company he founded, private. Mr. Dell believes that the successful company's transformation from a personal computer (PC) manufacturer to an enterprise solutions and services provider (ESS) is dependent on going private without the short-term results scrutiny public companies face. He and a private equity firm, Silver Lake Partners, have made an offer for the company, which Dell Inc.'s board has accepted. The deal requires the vote of a majority of shareholders. Southeastern Asset Management, an investment firm, and Dell Inc.'s second largest shareholder behind Mr. Dell strongly oppose the deal because the offer is well below what Southeastern believes is Dell Inc.'s intrinsic value. Southeastern, along with activist investor Carl Icahn, wage a campaign to defeat the go-private deal and propose a leveraged recapitalization as an alternative. On several occasions it appears that the deal will be voted down by shareholders, but rule changes made by Dell Inc.'s Board eventually pave the way for Mr. Dell to take the eponymous company private—for a price only slightly higher than the original bid. The case describes the reasons why Mr. Dell wants to take Dell Inc. private, why Southeastern and Icahn oppose the deal, the specifics of both the Dell/Silver Lake bid and of Southeastern's/Icahn's leveraged recapitalization proposals, and the events that took place.
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.
Admitting Mistakes: Home Country Effect on the Reliability of Restatement Reporting
We study the frequency of restatements by foreign firms listed on US exchanges. We find that the restatement rate of U.S. listed foreign firms is significantly lower than that of comparable US firms and that the difference depends on the firm’s home country characteristics. Foreign firms from countries with a weak rule of law are less likely to restate than are firms from strong rule of law countries. While the lower rate of restatements can represent an absence of errors, it can also indicate a lack of detection and disclosure of errors and irregularities. We infer the effect of detection and disclosure by associating the frequency of restatements with the quality of the firm’s internal control system. We find that only US firms and foreign firms from strong rule of law countries show a positive association between restatement frequency and internal control weaknesses. Firms from weak rule of law countries show no significant association. We interpret these findings as home country enforcement affecting firms’ likelihood of detecting and reporting existing accounting misstatements. This suggests that for U.S. listed foreign firms, less frequent restatements can be a signal of opportunistic reporting rather than a lack of accounting errors and irregularities.
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.