Disclosure of Private Information and Reduction of Uncertainty: Environmental Liabilities in the Chemical Industry
53 Pages Posted: 30 May 2001
Date Written: April 2001
We investigate the potential uncertainty-reducing role of accounting information in the context of contingent Superfund liability valuation. We first develop theoretical arguments for the way reduction of uncertainty regarding these contingent liabilities is expected to affect security prices. Empirical proxies are developed for two types of uncertainty surrounding contingent Superfund liabilities: site uncertainty and allocation uncertainty. In a valuation framework, we then investigate whether financial statement disclosures and accruals reduce uncertainty and thereby affect security valuation. Specifically, we analyze the interaction of private information contained in firm disclosures and accruals with inherent uncertainty surrounding contingent Superfund liabilities. Results suggest that in a regulatory environment allowing substantial reporting discretion, firm-provided financial statement information affects valuation of contingent Superfund liabilities by reducing uncertainty. Further, we find that information revealed through accruals versus disclosures is differentially effective at reducing site and allocation uncertainty.
Keywords: Environmental accounting; Disclosure; Market valuation; Contingent liability
JEL Classification: G12, M41, M45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation