Consistency as a Means to Comparability: Theory and Evidence

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Abstract

This paper studies financial statement consistency — the purported means to comparability — from an information perspective. We model consistency as firms’ required propensity to apply common accounting methods to individual transactions and show that consistency creates information spillover through correlated measurements (“spillover channel”) while potentially reducing the informativeness of one’s own report (“standalone channel”). The model generates two central predictions. First, optimal consistency decreases with a transaction’s fundamental correlation as high correlation diminishes information gains via the spillover channel. Second, optimal consistency decreases with a transaction’s fundamental volatility as high volatility exacerbates information losses via the standalone channel. Empirical evidence supports both predictions. Overall, this paper contributes a framework for studying comparability and draws useful policy implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4279-4300
Number of pages22
JournalManagement Science
Volume68
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2021 INFORMS

Keywords

  • comparability
  • financial statement consistency
  • fundamental correlation
  • fundamental volatility
  • information spillover
  • informativeness

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