Daniel A. Bens
Professor of Accounting and Control
In a sample of U.S. multiple-segment firms, the authors document a negative association between aggregation via segment reporting and timely loss recognition. A higher level of aggregation, as reflected in a firm’s reported organizational structure (the definition and characteristics of its segments), causes a multiple-segment firm to exhibit less cross-segment variation in profitability than a matched control portfolio of single-segment firms.They find that firms that engage in more aggregation report accounting numbers that provide less timely information about economic losses. They also observe that firms that provide more disaggregated segment data subsequent to adopting SFAS 131 experienced an increase in timely loss recognition.This result implies that higher quality segment reporting leads to an increase in timely loss recognition, which, per extant research, is associated with better governance. Our results complement results in Berger and Hann [2003. The impact of SFAS No. 131 on information and monitoring. Journal of Accounting Research, 41, 163–223] that show a decline in inefficient internal-capital-market transfers subsequent to the adoption of SFAS 131.Overall, the authors provide evidence supporting Beyer, Cohen, Lys, and Walther’s [2010. The financial reporting environment: Review of the recent literature. Journal of Accounting and Economics, 50, 296–343] contention that accounting conservatism is, in part, a function of managers’ aggregation choices.