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The impact of Sarbanes-Oxley on the accounting quality of firms cross-listed in the U.S. versus the U.K.

Jaywon Lee, 2008
Faculty Advisor: Stephen Penman
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Abstract

The issue of accounting quality and stock exchange competition is currently under extensive debate, since the U.S. exchanges are facing significant challenges from abroad. Investors claim that SOX has a chilling effect in the U.S. cross-listing markets and that the U.S. is losing valuable listings. A counter-argument is that SOX is ensuring standards, protecting U.S. investors and maintaining the integrity of U.S. cross-listings. To test this, I compare the characteristics of accounting data for foreign firms that cross-list in U.S. exchanges (ADRs) with foreign firms that cross-list in the U.K. exchanges (GDRs). This study also examines ADR firms (Level I and IV) that do not disclose U.S. GAAP figures in the form of 20-F reconciliations and are not subject to full compliance with SOX regulations. In general, the results in this paper suggest that Level II and III (Level I and IV) ADR firms exhibit higher (lower) accounting quality than GDR firms as measured by various dimensions of income smoothing, earnings management, and value relevance. SOX has little impact on accounting quality for Level II and III ADRs. For new issues, Level II and III ADRs are characterized with higher accounting quality than GDRs. This difference becomes more prominent after SOX. Switching firms that delist from the Level II and III exchanges and newly list in the U.K. are characterized with lower accounting quality.

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