This study examines corporate transparency in the US market for a sample of 319 S&P 500 firms. We examine whether a number of disparate measures of corporate transparency used by other researchers are distinct, cohere as measures of a single factor of corporate transparency, or capture multiple different dimensions. Next, we begin to examine the impact of corporate transparency, conceived in the broadest sense, and not limited to financial reporting, on US firms. We develop a model of corporate transparency based on a broad definition and framework proposed by Bushman, Piotrowski and Smith, which we extend in several ways, and then study the effect of corporate transparency on cost of debt, credit rating, and cost of equity. First, we find that corporate transparency is neither a unitary concept nor merely an ambiguous term for multiple distinct concepts: factor analysis of ten corporate transparency variables identifies four independent underlying dimensions: public disclosure information, intermediary information, earnings quality information and insider information. Second, we find that corporate transparency has significant power to explain cross-sectional variation in credit rating and cost of capital. More specifically, (i) credit rating, cost of debt, and beta are significantly associated with disclosure information transparency; (ii) credit rating, cost of equity, and beta are significantly associated with intermediary information transparency; and (iii) cost of equity and beta are significantly associated with insider information transparency. Our findings offer a more comprehensive evaluation of corporate transparency than prior studies, and we demonstrate direct economic implications for both US firms and markets.
Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 15, 2011
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