Financial reporting disclosure on the internet: an international perspective

Khan, Tehmina (2006) Financial reporting disclosure on the internet: an international perspective. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the various elements of financial reporting frameworks and practice in the context of the Internet. The Internet has emerged as a recent medium of presentation of corporate information. Currently, the levels of disclosure vary widely between companies within countries and on an international level, in relation to financial reporting disclosure on websites. It was intended in this research to identify the national and international regulatory frameworks that shed light on the minimum level of disclosure required of companies. Actual disclosure by companies was then investigated in order to compare de jure and de facto financial reporting disclosure. The financial reporting elements investigated were broadly classified as basic financial reporting elements such as financial reports, corporate social responsibility reporting elements, corporate governance elements and audit reports. A sample of 177 companies was selected from four sub-groups: hotels, diversified companies, multinational companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and multinational companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. The companies’ websites were then investigated in relation to financial reporting disclosure on the Internet. For companies that did not have their own (primary) websites, further investigation was carried out as to whether financial reporting information was provided on secondary websites. The nature of this information was also analyzed. It was found that 82 companies had annual reports on their websites and 7 companies had interim results only. The financial reports of these companies were then studied in order to determine the nature and level of disclosure in relation to the financial reporting elements and disclosure scores were formulated. In relation to the adoption of the Internet for financial reporting purposes, it was found that 33 companies had no financial information on their websites and that 55 companies did not have annual reports online because they did not have websites. The findings indicated that only 67 percent of the companies with websites had some kind of financial information on their websites. In relation to companies with financial reports on their websites, it was found that all sample companies diverted from what was required by the regulation by not disclosing financial reporting elements in one aspect or another. In relation to audit reports, it was found that only half of the relevant sample companies had audit reports accompanying their financial reports. Other observations were also made, indicating a spectrum picture of financial reporting disclosure on the Internet, in the context of basic, corporate social responsibility and corporate governance financial reporting. The findings made in this study were supported by literature, in that there is a lack of a uniform approach to financial reporting disclosure on the Internet. Financial reporting disclosure on the Internet ranges from none to extreme detail (including voluntary reporting disclosures) for corporations on the Internet. In the context of the qualitative characteristics identified by the International Accounting Standards Board framework, adopted by national jurisdictions, this would compromise quality, relevance, usefulness and timeliness of financial reporting information on the Internet. In return this would pose a dilemma for the user in the context of comparability, due to the lack of uniformity. In this study one reporting language, called the XBRL was also investigated. This was done due to the immense benefits and potential offered in the literature in support of XBRL, enhancing the qualitative characteristics of understandability, timeliness and more extensive coverage of auditing and verification of information. It was found that this reporting language is at this point in time, in its experimental stage and that a more extensive time frame may be required for its wider adoption and usage. In this study recommendations were made to improve financial reporting disclosure by companies on the Internet and to make the Internet a more reliable source for presentation of financial reporting information.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Accounting
Keywords financial reporting, disclosure, Internet, companies
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