Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Accounting

First Advisor

Brian Bushee

Second Advisor

Luzi Hail

Abstract

This dissertation examines how the lack of comparable public peers (“informational uniqueness”) is related to a firm’s disclosure policy and information environment.

Having less information spillover from other public firms may present an information deficiency if it is not compensated by other components of the information environment. Using textual similarity in business description among firms to measure the extent of peer presence, I find that informational uniqueness is associated with a higher propensity by firms to provide ongoing bundled guidance. This is consistent with firms attempting to mitigate the information deficiency through strengthening their tacit commitment to continued disclosure by providing more information regularly on predictable schedules. Overall, I find a strong negative relationship between informational uniqueness and the quality of corporate information environment only among firms without regular bundled guidance. My results suggest that, while informational uniqueness can generate significant information deficiency, firms with strong tacit commitment to ongoing disclosure are largely able to compensate for the lack of information spillover from peers.

On the flip side, firms surrounded by many peers may be subject to the influence of peer dynamics on their disclosure behavior. While the presence of comparable public peers likely expands investors’ information endowment on the base firm through information spillover on related exposures, discretionary disclosures by peer firms may also signal information arrival. This can raise investors’ inferred probability that non-disclosure is due to strategic information withholding rather than the absence of new information. In relation to this, I show that the bid-ask spread of the base firm slightly increases when its closest peer initiates discretionary disclosures, but subsequently decreases upon disclosure by the base firm. In addition, I find that the number of comparable public peers is strongly positively associated with the frequency of discretionary disclosure. Overall, these results suggest that the presence of peer dynamics can induce firms with more peers to provide discretionary disclosures more frequently.

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