Karthik Ramanna

14 Results

 

A Manager’s Moral Obligation to Preserve Capitalism

Harvard Business School's Rebecca M. Henderson and Karthik Ramanna argue that company managers have a moral obligation to preserve capitalism. Closed for comment; 20 Comments posted.

The Auditing Oligopoly and Lobbying on Accounting Standards

The US auditing industry has been characterized as an oligopoly, which has successively tightened from eight key players to four over the last 25 years. This tightening is likely to change the incentives of the surviving big auditors, with implications for their role in our market economy. Motivated by the economic and public policy implications of the tightening audit oligopoly, the authors of this paper investigate the changing relation between the big firms and accounting standards. Accounting standards are a key input in the audit process and, through their effects on financial reporting, can impact capital allocation decisions in the economy. Results show that the big auditors are more likely to identify decreased reliability in proposed standards as the auditing oligopoly has tightened: This suggests that big auditors perceive higher litigation and political costs from the increased visibility that accompanies tighter oligopoly. The findings are also consistent with tighter oligopoly decreasing competition among the surviving firms to satisfy client preferences in accounting standards. The findings do not support the concern that tightening oligopoly has rendered the surviving big firms "too big to fail." Read More

Managers and Market Capitalism

In whose interests should managers act, particularly when structuring market regulations in highly technical or specialized matters that are largely outside public purview? This paper raises questions about the role of managers in sustaining the conditions for market capitalism to achieve its normative objectives. Rebecca Henderson and Karthik Ramanna begin with a discussion of the normative arguments for fully competitive markets as a resource allocation mechanism in complex societies. They suggest that Milton Friedman's assertion that the business of business is to increase its profits was in fact a moral assertion rooted in this normative framework. Next, they discuss the conditions for the existence of competitive markets and offer a brief overview of the institutions that provide them, noting that a combination of for-profit, pure public, and public-private institutions are needed to sustain capitalism. This perspective has two implications for managers. First, in many cases the opportunity to provide market completing institutions is a significant profit opportunity. Second, in those cases in which the provision of an institution is a scarcely attended political process or a public good that cannot be easily realized by managers, managers may have a duty to mitigate this market incompleteness even if it is not immediately profit maximizing to do so. Ultimately, managers' actions are likely to shape the moral and political legitimacy of market capitalism. Read More

Are the Big Four Audit Firms Too Big to Fail?

Although the number of audit firms has decreased over the past few decades, concerns that the "Big Four" survivors have become too big to fail may be a stretch. Research by professor Karthik Ramanna and colleagues suggests instead that audit firms are more concerned about taking risks. Open for comment; 13 Comments posted.

HBS Cases: Against the Grain

Dealing with pervasive, institutionalized corruption is tough but not impossible. A new case study on Tanzania joins a series of cases in professor Karthik Ramanna's research that explore the deep-seated problems of corruption as well as multiple entrepreneurial paths to combat it. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

New Agenda for Corporate Accountability Reporting

Professor Karthik Ramanna explains three ways to make corporate accountability reports potentially more useful to constituencies that include shareholders, communities, bondholders, and customers. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

The International Politics of IFRS Harmonization

Contrary to its staid image in popular culture, accounting has reigned at the forefront of globalization over the last decade. As of 2010, about 100 countries, including all of the world's major economies, either have adopted a common set of accounting principles known as International Financial Reporting Standards, have initiated an IFRS harmonization program, or have in place a national strategy to respond to IFRS. In fact, the proliferation of IFRS worldwide is one of the most important developments in corporate governance today. Through a series of case studies on Canada, China, and India, Assistant Professor Karthik Ramanna analyzes key similarities and differences in the international political dynamics that contribute to countries' responses to IFRS. His framework helps explain and predict countries' decisions on IFRS harmonization, as well as the potential structure and impact of IFRS in the future. Read More

Towards an Understanding of the Role of Standard Setters in Standard Setting

Accounting standards promulgated by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) play an important role in the development and maintenance of capital markets worldwide, so it is important to understand how these standards come to be. Prior research has focused on the effect of corporate lobbying on the development of FASB standards, but has largely overlooked the role of the FASB members themselves. Looking at these individuals between 1973 and 2007, Harvard Business School doctoral candidate Abigail M. Allen and professor Karthik Ramanna examine how board members' professional experience, length of service on the board, and political leanings influenced accounting standards. Read More

Network Effects in Countries’ Adoption of IFRS

Between 2003 and 2008, 75 countries adopted, to various degrees, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) developed by the International Accounting Standards Board. More countries, including the United States and China, are currently engaged in convergence projects. Researchers Karthik Ramanna (Harvard Business School) and Ewa Sletten (MIT Sloan School of Management) report on the role that perceived network benefits play in convincing some countries to shift from local accounting standards to IFRS. Read More

Why Do Countries Adopt International Financial Reporting Standards?

Why do some countries adopt the European Union (EU)-based International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) when others do not? To expand our understanding of the determinants and consequences of IFRS adoption on a global sample, HBS professor Karthik Ramanna and MIT Sloan School of Management coauthor Ewa Sletten studied variations over time in the decision to adopt these standards in more than a hundred non-EU countries. Understanding countries' adoption decisions can provide insights into the benefits and costs of IFRS adoption. Read More

Elections and Discretionary Accruals: Evidence from 2004

How does the political process affect accounting? During the 2004 U.S. congressional elections, outsourcing of American jobs was a major campaign issue. Because outsourcing is assumed to be net profitable, the use of income-decreasing accruals would enable donor firms to deflect public scrutiny of both the firm and the political candidate over outsourcing. HBS professor Karthik Ramanna and MIT Sloan School professor Sugata Roychowdhury examine the accrual choices made by outsourcing firms with links to U.S. congressional candidates during the 2004 elections, and specifically test for income-decreasing discretionary accruals. Evidence is consistent with firms using earnings management to reduce both direct political costs and the costs associated with causing embarrassment to affiliated political candidates. Read More

Accounting Information as Political Currency

The study of accounting and the political process has long been viewed through the political cost hypothesis, the basic premise of which is that firms manage earnings in order to extract first-order benefits (or avoid first-order costs) from regulators. This paper develops and tests a distinct, yet likely, complementary hypothesis: Firms manage reported earnings in order to supply first-order benefits to regulators. Focusing on Democratic and Republican candidates in congressional races in 2004, Ramanna and Roychowdhury test whether the management of accounting information is in some circumstances akin to a political contribution from firms to politicians: in other words, whether accounting information can be used as political currency. The authors predict and find that identified corporate donors to candidates in closely watched races in 2004 managed information related to outsourcing, a hot-button issue in those races. Read More

Accounting Information as Political Currency

Corporate donors that gave at least $10,000 to closely watched races in the U.S. congressional elections of 2004 were more likely to understate their earnings, say Harvard Business School's Karthik Ramanna and MIT colleague Sugata Roychowdhury. Such "downward earnings management" may have functioned as a political contribution. In this Q&A, Ramanna explains how accounting and politics influence each other. Read More

Evidence on the Effects of Unverifiable Fair-Value Accounting

Since the late 1990s, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has pressed for the use of fair values in accounting. When such fair values are based on verifiable market prices, they are less likely to be managed. However, in some FASB standards, fair values are based on managers' or appraisers' unverifiable subjective estimates. Agency theory suggests that managers will take advantage of this unverifiability to manage financial reports in order to extract rents. This paper considers a recent FASB standard known as SFAS 142, which relies on unverifiable fair-value estimates when accounting for acquired goodwill. The goal of the research is to see whether firms are using this standard to manage their financial reports. Read More