In this paper, I empirically examine the influence of corporate culture on the comparability of financial statements. I predict that firms with strong corporate cultures have less-opportunistic managers, who make homogenous decisions when faced with similar economic events, resulting in greater accounting comparability. For a sample of U.S. companies, I find empirical evidence consistent with this prediction: firms with strong corporate cultures have greater peer- and industry-level comparability. These results are robust to using an entropy-balanced sample, correcting for sample selection bias using Heckman's two-step procedure, and employing different measures of corporate culture strength. Further analysis reveals that sudden CEO turnovers that move firms towards (away from) a stronger corporate culture positively (negatively) influence post-turnover accounting comparability. My results provide new insights on the role of corporate culture for financial reporting.
In this study, I empirically examine how the strength of corporate culture relates to financial statement comparability. Corporate culture is an informal institution that comprises firmly held values and norms within an organization (O'Reilly & Chatman, 1996). Senior executives increasingly value and strive for building a strong corporate culture, which they deem value-enhancing (Graham, Grennan, Harvey, & Rajgopal, 2022). Empirical studies also show that firms with strong corporate cultures have better firm performance and efficiency (Edmans, 2012; Guiso, Sapienza, & Zingales, 2015; Li, 2022; Xu, Fernando, & Tam, 2019). This culture-performance link is particularly more apparent during economic downturns (Li, Liu, Mai, & Zhang, 2021; Lins, Servaes, & Tamayo, 2017).
Guiso et al. (2015) argue that corporate culture instills social norms within an organization, which can help mitigate agency problems such as moral hazard. Such reductions in agency problems result in better firm performance and value. Other researchers argue that having a particular type of corporate culture can affect how firms make certain decisions. For example, firms with greater preferences towards risk and uncertainty (i.e., corporate risk culture) have greater research and development intensity (Pan, Siegel, & Wang, 2017). Similarly, firms with control-oriented (creation-oriented) cultures are more (less) likely to enact a CEO change after poor performance (Fiordelisi & Ricci, 2014). More recently, Guggenmos and Van der Stede (2020) show that firms with more creative and innovative cultures engage in higher levels of real earnings management while Bhandari, Mammadov, Thevenot, and Vakilzadeh (2022) find that firms with more collaborative (competitive) cultures have lower (higher) financial reporting quality.
In this study, I empirically examine how the strength of corporate culture relates to comparability of financial statements. Using a sample of U.S. firms and newly-develop machine-learning-based measure of corporate culture, I find that firms with stronger corporate cultures have greater financial statement comparability. These results are not explained by observable differences in firm characteristics or sample selection bias resulting from non-randomness. Further analyses suggest that sudden CEO turnovers that move the firm towards (away from) a stronger corporate culture, positively (negatively) influence accounting comparability post-turnover. These findings are in line with the intuition that managers in strong culture firms tend to act less opportunistically, resulting in more homogenous decision-making when faced with similar economic events. My findings contribute to two unique strands of literature. First, I provide new evidence on how corporate culture has implications for financial reporting outcomes, and second, I extend the literature on the economic benefits of having a strong corporate culture.