Accounting scholars and journals
rating and benchmarking
Risking academic research quality
Lee D. Parker
School of Commerce, The University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
and University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK, and
Faculty of Business and Economics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
and Bologna University, Bologna, Italy
Purpose – This editorial aims to consider contemporary issues for accounting scholars, in particular
journals rating and benchmarking, arguing that current international trends are risking academic
Design/methodology/approach – This paper takes the form of an editorial review and argument.
Findings – The paper acknowledges that accounting academic research is important to the higher
education system, careers and publishers. However, its quality and the construction and measurement
of the quality of accounting journals and research impact on society continue to be hotly debated.
Research limitations/implications – The editorial offers scope for accounting academics to
engage in debate about the impact of journal rankings and benchmarking on their teaching and
research, important issues in higher education, not only in Australia, but also internationally.
Originality/value – The paper provides commentary on the “quality” of accounting research and
measurement practices associated with rating and benchmarking academic journals.
Keywords Accounting research, Ratings, Interdisciplinary research, Benchmarking
Paper type General review
Executive hubris: the case of a
Niamh M. Brennan and John P. Conroy
University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Purpose – Can personality traits of chief executive officers (CEOs) be detected at a distance?
Following newspaper speculation that the banking crisis of 2008 was partly caused by CEO hubris,
this paper seeks to analyse the CEO letters to shareholders of a single bank over ten years for evidence
of CEO personality traits, including narcissism (a contributor to hubris), hubris, overconfidence and
CEO-attribution. Following predictions that hubris increases the longer individuals occupy positions
of power, the research aims to examine whether hubristic characteristics intensify over time.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper takes concepts of hubris from the clinical
psychology literature and applies them to discourses in CEO letters to shareholders in annual
reports. The research comprises a longitudinal study of the discretionary narrative disclosures in the
CEO letters to shareholders in eight annual reports, benchmarked against disclosures in the CEO
letters to shareholders of the previous and subsequent CEOs of the same organisation.
Findings – The results point to evidence of narcissism and hubris in the personality of the bank
CEO. Over half the sentences analysed were found to contain narcissistic-speak. In 45 per cent of
narcissistic-speak sentences, there were three of more symptoms of hubris – what Owen and Davison
describe as extreme hubristic behaviour. In relation to CEO overconfidence, only seven sentences (2
per cent) contained bad news. More than half of the good news was attributed to the CEO and all the
bad news was attributed externally. The research thus finds evidence of hubris in the CEO letters to
shareholders, which became more pronounced the longer the CEO served.
Research limitations/implications – The analysis of CEO discourse is highly subjective, and
difficult to replicate.
Originality/value – The primary contribution of this research is the adaptation of the 14 clinical
symptoms of hubris from clinical psychology to the analysis of narratives in CEO letters to
shareholders in annual reports to reveal signs of CEO hubris.
Keywords Discretionary narrative disclosures, Annual reports, Narcissism, Hubris, Chief executives,
Paper type Research paper
system change in an emerging
Rahat Munir, Kevin Baird and Sujatha Perera
Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia
Purpose – This study aims to describe and understand performance measurement system (PMS)
change in an emerging economy bank.
Design/methodology/approach – Using institutional theory as a theoretical lens, the study uses
Kasurinen’s accounting change model to explain management accounting change as a product of
motivators, catalysts and facilitators. The model also focuses on how confusers, frustrators and
delayers inhibit PMS change and the role of leaders in the change process. Data were gathered from
multiple sources including relevant internal and external documents covering a ten-year period
(۱۹۹۷-۲۰۰۷), and semi-structured interviews with managers from different hierarchical levels.
Findings – The bank’s PMS experienced two significant changes from 1997 to 2007. While uncertain
economic conditions, increasing competition, and pressures to improve performance and enhance
accountability motivated changes in the bank’s performance measurement system, the major catalysts
of change were the financial losses experienced, major regulatory changes, and the appointment of a
new board of directors and president. The change leader played an important role in overcoming
resistance to change and in ensuring adequate technical support and training was provided to
facilitate the change.
Practical implications – Bank managers must be aware of the influence of institutional factors on
PMSs. In particular, they need to be aware of the factors that can necessitate change (motivators),
initiate change (catalysts) and the prevailing conditions required to support change (facilitators) in
order to maintain the utility of PMSs.
Originality/value – The paper provides a more detailed insight into the impact of institutional
factors on changes in PMSs in the context of an emerging economy, which will assist practitioners in
addressing issues concerning PMSs changes in similar contexts.
Keywords Performance measurement systems, Factors influencing and inhibiting change,
Banking sector, Emerging economy, Change management, Emerging markets
Paper type Case study
Out of control? Strategy in the
NFP sector: the implications for
Basil P. Tucker and Lee D. Parker
University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Purpose – This aim of this study is to explore the relationship between management control systems
(MCSs) and the formulation of strategy in not-for-profit (NFP) organisations.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper views the relationship between MCS and strategy
through the contrasting lenses of new-institutional and contingency theory, using data collected from
semi-structured interviews of CEOs and senior executives in 32 Australian NFPs.
Findings – Strategy is formulated predominantly by intended means, through structured strategic
planning processes. Emergent strategy is typically a rare means by which strategy is developed, and is
in fact often actively discouraged in the NFPs investigated. Contrary to expectations, control is
predominantly exercised through informal means, rather than by formally designed systems.
Originality/value – With strategy and control being central concerns for most NFPs, this sector
provides a unique vehicle for exploring the “robustness” of prior MCS strategy empirical findings.
Investigating the MCS strategy relationship within a highly complex NFP context is thus an “acid
test” of existing understanding of the MCS-strategy nexus. As one of the few studies to investigate the
relationship between control and strategy as it may apply in this context, this study refines and further
develops extant management control theory.
Keywords MCS-strategy relationship, Intended strategy, Emergent strategy,
Management control systems, Informal control, Control
Paper type Research paper
Accounting as a human right:
the case of water information
Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance,
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Purpose – This paper aims to respond to increasing interest in the intersection between accounting
and human rights and to explore whether access to information might itself constitute a human right.
As human rights have “moral force”, establishing access to information as a human right may act as a
catalyst for policy change. The paper also aims to focus on environmental information, and specifically
the case of corporate water-related disclosures.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper follows Griffin and Sen, who suggest that a
candidate human right might be recognised when it is consistent with “founding” human rights, it is
important and it may be influenced by societal action. The specific case for access to corporate
water-related information to constitute a human right is evaluated against these principles.
Findings – Access to corporate water-related disclosures may indeed constitute a human right.
Political participation is a founding human right, water is a critical subject of political debate,
water-related information is required in order for political participation and the state is in a position to
facilitate provision of such information. Corporate water disclosures may not necessarily be in the
form of annual sustainability reports, however, but may include reporting by government agencies via
public databases and product labelling. A countervailing corporate right to privacy is considered and
found to be relevant but not necessarily incompatible with heightened disclosure obligations.
Originality/value – This paper seeks to make both a theoretical and a practical contribution.
Theoretically, the paper explores how reporting might be conceived from a rights-based perspective
and provides a method for determining which disclosures might constitute a human right. Practically,
the paper may assist those calling for improved disclosure regulation by showing how such calls
might be embedded within human rights discourse.
Keywords Human rights, Water, Sustainability reporting, Information disclosure, Financial reporting
Paper type Conceptual paper