Svenja Dube investigates litigation change managers’ beliefs about the value of voluntarily disclosing bad news

Assistant Professor Svenja Dube co-authored an article, 'Does litigation change managers’ beliefs about the value of voluntarily disclosing bad news?' in the Review of Accounting Studies on May 7, 2021.

Research suggests that earnings-disclosure-related litigation causes managers to reduce subsequent disclosure, perhaps stemming from a belief that even their good faith disclosures will cause them trouble. This paper considers unexplored dimensions of disclosure and alternative channels of disclosure to provide additional evidence that speaks to how litigation shapes managers’ disclosure strategies. Consistent with Skinner (1994)’s classic legal liability hypothesis, we find that, while managers reduce and delay forecasts of positive earnings news following litigation, they increase the frequency and timeliness of their bad news forecasts. Moreover, many managers who were nonguiders prior to facing legal scrutiny begin guiding following litigation. Managers also maintain (if not increase) the information they provide via press releases and during conference calls following litigation. Supporting the notion that managers use disclosure to walk down expectations, additional analyses document an increase in the likelihood that lawsuit firms report earnings that beat consensus forecasts in the post-lawsuit period. Collectively, our evidence suggests that following litigation managers continue to view disclosure as a valuable tool that shapes their firms’ information environments and reduces expected legal costs. In so doing, it supports an important alternative viewpoint of how firms respond to litigation as well as the effectiveness of litigation as a disciplining mechanism.