In common-law systems, firms’ litigation risk depends both on written laws and how courts interpret these laws. Using 321 US circuit court rulings, we introduce a novel measure capturing courts’ attitudes toward defendants in securities lawsuits. Our results confirm that financial misreporting firms in more defendant-friendly circuits face fewer lawsuits. Consistent with lower expected litigation costs, firms in these circuits face less negative market reactions when misreporting is revealed, invest less in preventing misreporting, and are more likely to engage in aggressive misreporting. We conclude that defendant-friendly precedents reduce firms’ legal liability and worsen their financial reporting quality.
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, Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Cologne and Leibniz University Hannover who share the same research agenda.