The impact of narrative disclosure readability on bond ratings and the cost of debt

The impact of narrative disclosure readability on bond ratings and the cost of debt Prior research on the determinants of credit ratings has focused on rating agencies’ use of quantitative accounting information, but the there is scant evidence on the impact of textual attributes. This study examines the impact of financial disclosure narrative on bond market outcomes. We find that less readable financial disclosures are associated with less favorable ratings, greater bond rating agency disagreement, and a higher cost of debt. We improve causal identification by exploiting the 1998 Plain English Mandate, which required a subset of firms to exogenously improve the readability of their filings. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find that the firms required to improve the readability of their filings experience more favorable ratings, lower bond rating disagreement, and lower cost of debt. Collectively, our evidence suggests that textual financial disclosure attributes appear to not only influence bond market intermediaries’ opinions but also firms’ cost of debt. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Review of Accounting Studies Springer Journals

The impact of narrative disclosure readability on bond ratings and the cost of debt

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2017 by Springer Science+Business Media New York
Subject
Business and Management; Accounting/Auditing; Corporate Finance; Public Finance
ISSN
1380-6653
eISSN
1573-7136
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11142-017-9388-0
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Prior research on the determinants of credit ratings has focused on rating agencies’ use of quantitative accounting information, but the there is scant evidence on the impact of textual attributes. This study examines the impact of financial disclosure narrative on bond market outcomes. We find that less readable financial disclosures are associated with less favorable ratings, greater bond rating agency disagreement, and a higher cost of debt. We improve causal identification by exploiting the 1998 Plain English Mandate, which required a subset of firms to exogenously improve the readability of their filings. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find that the firms required to improve the readability of their filings experience more favorable ratings, lower bond rating disagreement, and lower cost of debt. Collectively, our evidence suggests that textual financial disclosure attributes appear to not only influence bond market intermediaries’ opinions but also firms’ cost of debt.

Journal

Review of Accounting StudiesSpringer Journals

Published: Mar 20, 2017

References

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