Why do politicians intervene in accounting regulation?

Abstract

Politicians frequently intervene in the regulation of financial accounting. Evidence from the accounting literature shows that regulatory capture by special interests helps explain these interventions. However, many accounting rules have broad economic or social consequences, such as their effects on income distribution or private sector subsidies. The perception of these consequences varies with a politician’s ideology. Therefore, if accounting rules produce those consequences, ideology plausibly spills over and explains a politician’s stance on the technical accounting issue, beyond special interest pressure. We use two prominent U.S. political debates about fair value accounting and the expensing of employee stock options to disentangle the role of ideology from special interest pressure. In both debates, ideology explains politicians’ involvement at exactly those points when the debate focuses on the economic consequences of accounting regulation (i.e., bank bailouts and top management compensation). Once the debates focus on more technical issues, connections to special interests remain the dominant force.

Participating Institutions

TRR 266‘s main locations are Paderborn University (Coordinating University), HU Berlin, and University of Mannheim. All three locations have been centers for accounting and tax research for many years. They are joined by researchers from LMU Munich, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, ESMT Berlin, Goethe University Frankfurt and Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg who share the same research agenda.