Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry?

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry?

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? Jean-François Gajewski, Li Li To cite this version: Jean-François Gajewski, Li Li. Can In...

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Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? Jean-François Gajewski, Li Li

To cite this version: Jean-François Gajewski, Li Li. Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry?. Advances in Accounting, Elsevier, 2015, 31 (1), pp.115-124. <10.1016/j.adiac.2015.03.013>.

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Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 1

CAN INTERNET-BASED DISCLOSURE REDUCE INFORMATION ASYMMETRY? Jean-François GAJEWSKI and Li LI

Abbreviated title: Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry?

Authors : Jean-François GAJEWSKI IAE Savoie Mont-Blanc, Université Savoie Mont Blanc, IREGE, BP 80439, 74944 Annecy-le-Vieux Cedex, France. Tel : +33 1 6 10 32 71 06. E-mail: [email protected] Li LI Montpellier Business School, 2300 Avenue des Moulins, 34185 Montpellier Cedex 4, France. Tel : +33 4 67 10 25 52. E-mail: [email protected]

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 2

ABSTRACT The Internet is widely used by listed companies to manage investor relations. Since January 2007, the French Financial Authority has required companies listed on Euronext-Paris to disclose all mandatory financial information via the Internet in order to enhance information transparency. This paper examines the impact of Internet-based disclosure on the French stock market by analyzing the relationship between information asymmetry and Internet disclosure practices. Extending previous studies on Web-based disclosure, a checklist of 40 items is developed to evaluate the level of Internet-based voluntary disclosure. Measuring information asymmetry by the spread and the probability of informed trading, we show that greater Web-based disclosure lowers information asymmetry in the French financial market. JEL classification: G14, G15, G32 Keywords: Internet-based disclosure, Information asymmetry, Spread, PIN.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 3

1. Introduction The Internet has triggered a revolution in the area of financial transparency for both listed companies and investors in financial markets. Compared with traditional media, such as the paper-based annual report, the Internet allows firms to aggregate and disseminate different types of information (video, sound, flash, text, etc.) on their websites. Internet disclosure offers firms the opportunity to enhance communication quality, improve reputation, attract potential investors, and reduce information distribution costs (Ettredge, Richardson & Scholz 2002). As a consequence, firms that improve their communication to investors may reduce their cost of capital. The investors may also benefit from Web disclosure, because Internet-based technologies facilitate the information gathering process. Via the Internet, investors can very quickly obtain different types of financial information, which is presented in various formats (Word, Excel or Pdf, etc.) and is directly usable. Web disclosure may also help investors to bridge the information gap between themselves and managers. Moreover, as Web information is widely disseminated, it may be able to reduce the information asymmetry between informed and uninformed investors. As Hodge, Kennedy and Maines (2004) point out, Internet technology helps investors to access, analyze and understand information, which, in turn, leads to better interpretation.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 4

This paper attempts to develop a better understanding of the effects of Internet-based voluntary disclosure on the French stock market. The main purpose is to determine whether Internet disclosure could lead to a reduction in information asymmetry. Based on the works of Pirchegger and Wagenhofer (1999), Debreceny, Gray and Rahman (2001), Ettredge, Richardson and Scholz (2002), Marston and Polei (2004), a checklist of 40 items is developed to assess the level of Web disclosure. Moreover, this checklist takes into account not only the quantity of information available via the Internet, but also the presentation of information on websites. Information asymmetry is measured by the spread, the probability of informed trading (PIN) defined by Easley, Kiefer, O'Hara and Paperman (1996) and the adjusted probability of informed trading (AdjPIN) extended by Duarte and Young (2009). Our empirical findings show a negative relationship between Internet-based disclosure and information asymmetry. This paper also extends prior studies on Web-based disclosure in several ways. Firstly, instead of studying the determinants of Web-based disclosure, we focus on the consequences of this new information dissemination channel and try to extend the existing empirical studies on the impact of financial disclosure on information asymmetry. Several researchers have already investigated this relationship, but through using traditional communication channels (annual reports, preliminary announcements, earnings announcements,

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 5

financial analysts’ information, etc.). For example, Petersen and Plenborg (2006) found a negative relationship between the amount of financial information published via annual reports and information asymmetry. By using the Association of Investment Management and Research (AIMR) total disclosure scores as a proxy for a firm’s disclosure quality, Brown and Hillegeist (2007) prove that there is a negative association between disclosure quality and information asymmetry. Secondly, several empirical papers investigate the impact of electronic communication on asymmetry by analyzing the adoption of XBRL1. They show that the technique of XBRL improves financial transparency and reduces information asymmetry in the capital market (Pinsker & Li 2008; Yoon, Zo & Ciganek 2011). Instead of focusing on one single Web disclosure technology, we study the overall level of company website-based disclosure and its impact on the French capital market. A sophisticated checklist is developed to cover not only the content of voluntary disclosure online, but also the presentation of online disclosure. Thirdly, this paper provides empirical evidence of the impact of Web disclosure on information asymmetry in the French institutional context. Up till now, most empirical studies on information asymmetry and voluntary disclosure have been developed using American samples. Few works, except

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 6

those of Leuz and Verrecchia (2000), Hail (2002), Petersen and Plenborg (2006), have focused on European companies, and none have studied French listed companies. As Jaggi and Low (2000) show, the legislative system and culture influence financial practices. Compared with Anglo-American firms, the capital concentration of French firms is relatively high and generally characterized by state, family or cross shareholding. Investor protection is also weaker in France than in the U.S. In light of these differences, it is valuable to examine whether the results obtained through empirical studies using other samples are valid in the case of France. While quarterly earnings announcements are legally required in the US, French firms generally publish semi-annual earnings2. Gajewski and Quéré (2013) study the effect of earnings disclosures on information asymmetry in France and the US and prove that the lower frequency of earnings announcements in France induces a steeper decrease of information asymmetry at the time of release of semi-annual earnings. Lastly, empirical studies on information asymmetry generally use the spread-based measure as a proxy for information asymmetry. This metric lacks precision in the sense that spreads do not only represent adverse selection costs. The paper here estimates the probability of informed trading in order to capture more precisely the extent of information asymmetry on the stock market (Easley, Kiefer, O'Hara & Paperman 1996; Duarte & Young 2009).

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 7

The remainder of the article is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the French institutional context of accounting disclosure. Section 3 gives a literature review and develops our hypotheses. Section 4 sets out the methodology chosen for the empirical study, the data selection procedure and the regression models. Section 5 interprets the empirical results and section 6 concludes. 2. The regulation of information disclosure in France As part of the European continental system, the French accounting disclosure regulation is less equity-outsider oriented than the Anglo-American system (Nobes, 1998). For instance, French regulations do not require firms to publish their results for the first and third quarter, while all four quarterly earnings announcements are legally required in the US. French firms must publish only their sales quarterly and their earnings semi-annually. In France, Internet financial disclosure has been voluntary and unregulated for many years. In order to guarantee a high level of investor protection and efficient markets, the European transparency directive3 (2004/109/CE) has established the detailed requirements for disclosure of periodic and on-going information concerning issuers whose securities are already admitted to trading on a regulated market. France has adopted this directive and modified the AMF’s General Regulations4 (Book II: Issuers and financial disclosure). Since

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 8

January 2007, all listed companies on Euronext-Paris must ensure that the regulated information is disseminated effectively and in full. Furthermore, the regulated information should be posted “on its website as soon as it has been disseminated” and be kept as stored data for at least five years. These new regulations are designed to improve the integrity of the information dissemination system, reduce the opacity of financial statements, and protect investors from accounting fraud. Appendix I provides a summary of regulated financial information for the firms listed on the French capital market. 3. Literature review and hypotheses 3.1. Literature review on Internet-based disclosure Studies on Web-based disclosure started in the mid-1990s when the Internet began to have a powerful impact on culture and the business environment. The research from this early stage is generally descriptive, with most studies providing an overall observation of the extent of Internet-based disclosure internationally (Petravick & Gillett 1996; Gray & Debreceny 1997; Trites 1999; Gowthorpe & Amat 1999; Deller, Stubenrath & Weber 1999; Ettredge, Richardson & Scholz 2001). By extending the earlier descriptive studies on Internet-based disclosure, more recent studies have sought to explain the determinants of Internet-based disclosure (Ashbaugh, Johnstone & Warfield 1999; Craven & Marston 1999;

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 9

Pirchegger & Wagenhofer 1999; Ettredge, Richardson & Scholz 2002; Brennan & Hourigan 2000; Debreceny, Gray & Rahman 2002; Marston & Polei 2004, Trabelsi, Labelle & Dumontier 2008). Since the release of information via Internet has been a voluntary choice for listed companies for several years, these studies have introduced agency theory, signal theory and cost-benefits analyses, which are generally used in voluntary disclosure studies. It is assumed that these theories can explain voluntary disclosure via both the traditional media, such as annual reports, and the new channels, such as the Internet (Marston & Polei 2004, Trabelsi, Labelle & Dumontier 2008). One common finding in prior studies is the positive relationship between firm size and Web reporting. The empirical results from different countries show that firm size is the most important determinant of the Internet used to disseminate information. As Buzby (1975) points out, the cost of information disclosure is relatively low for larger firms. Furthermore, large companies are more exposed to public scrutiny. As a result, they are motivated to enhance information transparency to satisfy the needs of information users.

It is generally accepted that corporate governance factors can influence a company’s communication strategy, particularly regarding voluntary disclosure (Gul & Leung 2004; Ajinkya, Bhojraj & Sengupta 2005, Velury & Jenkins, 2006). Kelton and Yang (2008) extend these studies by focusing on

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 10

the relationship between governance mechanisms and voluntary Web disclosure. They show that better Internet-based disclosure is positively linked to weaker shareholder rights, lower capital concentration, a higher percentage of independent directors and financial experts on the board, and a greater frequency of audit committee meetings. The findings of Kelton and Yang (2008) emphasize the importance of corporate governance in Web practices. On the contrary, Alali and Romero (2012) find that highly concentrated firms in Argentina disclose more information on their websites than firms with less concentration.

Later, empirical research began to investigate the effects of Internet-based disclosure on the financial market. For example, Cormier et al. (2009) find a negative impact of the web based social and human capital disclosure on stock volatility and Tobin’s Q. Yoon, Zo and Ciganek (2011) show that the technique of XBRL improves financial transparency and reduces information asymmetry in the capital market. Blankespoor, Miller and White (2014) find that dissemination via Twitter is negatively associated with information asymmetry. Efendi, Park and Smith (2013) show that XBRL filings can improve informational efficiency because XBRL filings make the financial data easier to use and analyze for all the information users. Chang, D’Anna, Watson and Wee (2008) examine the relationship between information asymmetry and

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 11

Internet-based disclosure in Australia. They find that the bid-ask spread is negatively related to disclosure quality, but this relationship becomes weaker in the presence of other factors. Based on the preceding research, higher Internet-based voluntary disclosure should reduce the degree of information asymmetry.

3.2. Development of hypotheses Situations concerning information asymmetry are more likely to occur when some informed investors possess information that others, the uninformed, do not have. These situations are detrimental to firms when the informed investors trade using this informational advantage, such as through insider trading. These trades lead to an adverse selection problem, because the uninformed will flee the market if they detect such information asymmetry. In order to keep the uninformed in the market and trade with them, the informed would have to revise their bids. This creates an adverse selection problem that could be resolved through increased disclosure, such as Web-based disclosure, by the firms. Theoretical research shows that the release of public information may, both directly and indirectly, help to reduce information asymmetry. On the one hand, the publication of accounting information should lower the informational advantage of pre-informed agents, and therefore the extent of information

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 12

asymmetry. Using this argument, Verrecchia (1982) treats public disclosure as a substitute for private information and shows that private information loses its usefulness when information is published. On the other hand, public information indirectly affects information asymmetry by reducing the incentive for investors to acquire costly private information. The theoretical models of Kim and Verrecchia (1991), Demski and Feltham (1994), McNichols and Trueman (1994) show that some agents are highly motivated to acquire private information before publication of the financial results, and are able to benefit from this advantage before it is neutralized by the corresponding report. But, if firms increase their public disclosure, the incentive for investors to search for costly private information will be reduced (Fama & Laffer 1971; Hakansson 1977; Diamond 1985). Brown and Hillegeist (2007) empirically show that the incentive to collect private information declines with disclosure quality. The release of public information may also change the trading behavior of uninformed investors on the capital market, according to the investor recognition hypothesis (Merton 1987). Internet-based disclosure can in fact enhance a firm’s visibility and mitigate incomplete information. As investors prefer to invest in companies with which they are familiar, more investors will be attracted to trade in the stock (Fishman & Hagerty 1989). As a result, information coverage (analysts, press coverage) will increase, thus leading to a reduction in information asymmetry, ceteris paribus. However, the larger the

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 13

investor base, the higher the probability of informed trading. Kyle (1985) theoretically demonstrates that the informed could have an incentive to increase their trades when there are more uninformed investors in the market. Their strategies become even less visible with more uninformed investors in the market. Although information asymmetry in the market depends on the balance between the informed and the uninformed, Brown and Hillegeist (2007) empirically prove that the balance between the informed and the uninformed changes in favor of uninformed trading with disclosure quality. This is probably due to limited capital constraints and risk aversion. To sum up, Internet-based voluntary disclosure may reduce situations of information asymmetry, because the informed have less incentive to acquire private information. Empirically, Heflin, Shaw and Wild (2005) demonstrate that increased disclosure (measured by analysts’ evaluations) is associated with lower spreads. Petersen and Plenborg (2006) also prove that quoted companies can reduce the spread by publishing more information voluntarily. Brown and Hillegeist (2007) find a negative relationship between the quality of annual report disclosure and information asymmetry. This negative association becomes stronger when the initial level of information asymmetry between the firm and investors is higher.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 14

Public information disclosure not only concerns content, but also presentation. The adoption of online disclosure enhances a firm’s capacity to present information and make its homepage a user-friendly information center. For example, search engines facilitate finding information, especially for novice investors with little experience. Financial data in Excel format facilitate the processing of data. Hyperlinks make it easier for investors to compare firm stock with market indexes. Furthermore, the Internet makes real-time disclosures accessible to all investors, and this is particularly important for foreign investors, who experience greater difficulties with information collection via traditional media. The organization of the website may improve disclosure quality and, as this can reduce information asymmetry, the presentation is a means of lowering this asymmetry. Prior empirical studies have shown the positive impact of some Web technologies on information asymmetry. For example, the XBRL technique can improve financial transparency and reduce information asymmetry in the capital market (Yoon, Zo & Ciganek 2011). Later, Efendi, Park and Smith (2013) prove that XBRL filings can improve informational efficiency. Based on the preceding arguments and research, greater use of network technology should reduce the level of information asymmetry. This leads to the core hypothesis:

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 15

Hypothesis: There is a negative relationship between information asymmetry and the degree of Internet-based voluntary disclosure. 4. Research design The empirical investigation consists of observing the relationship between Internet-based disclosure and information asymmetry. After presenting the research sample (4.1), the measurements of the main variables are set out (4.2). Lastly, the regression models are discussed (4.3). 4.1. Sample description and data collection methods The initial sample contains publicly traded French companies belonging to the SBF 250 index. We excluded twenty-nine companies in the financial sector due to their disclosure practices, which are heavily influenced by regulatory requirements (Botosan 1997) and subject to different disclosure requirements. Forty-one companies were also rejected for lack of sufficient information. The final sample therefore consists of 180 companies covering nine sectors: Oil and Gas, Basic Materials, Industrials, Consumer Goods, Health Care, Consumer Services, Telecommunications, Utilities and Technology. Table 1 presents the elements of the research sample. TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE Data on ownership structure were extracted from Thomson ONE Banker. Information on corporate governance was collected from websites and annual

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 16

reports. Other financial and accounting data were obtained from Datastream and Worldscope. All data relate to the 2007 financial year. 4.2. Measurement of variables 4.2.1. Information asymmetry measurement In order to study the relationship between information asymmetry and firm reporting on the Internet, we first need to assess the extent of information asymmetry in the stock market. Prior research has developed various methods of assessing the level of information asymmetry. Of these, the bid-ask spread (difference between the best selling price and the best buying price for a given security) appears to be the most frequently-used proxy to measure information asymmetry in previous studies on accounting information (Welker 1995; Leuz & Verrecchia 2000; Petersen & Plenborg 2006). Being consistent with prior works (Petersen & Plenborg 2006; Yoon, Zo & Ciganek 2011), this study also uses the spread as a proxy of information asymmetry and calculates the relative spread (R_Spread) by the following formula: 𝑅𝑅_𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑑𝑑 =

(𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴 𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝 − 𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝) . (𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃 + 𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃)/2

(1)

As stocks in the sample are continuously traded, we compute also timeweighted average bid-ask spreads (W_Spread) and average effective spreads

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 17

(E_Spread) from time-stamped data. Assuming that there are N quotation updates in the interval [t0;tN], the time-weighted average bid-ask spread is then computed using the following formula: 𝑁𝑁

1 𝑊𝑊_𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆 = � 𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑖𝑖 × (𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑖 − 𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑖−1 ). (𝑡𝑡𝑁𝑁 − 𝑡𝑡0 )

(2)

𝑖𝑖=1

The effective spread is computed by comparing the mid-price to the trading price: 𝐸𝐸_𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆𝑆 = 2 × �

𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇 𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝𝑝 − (𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃 + 𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃)/2 �. (𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃 + 𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴𝐴 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃)/2

(3)

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 18

However, the bid-ask spread measures transaction costs that also include other components. In an order-driven market, there could also be a component linked to inventory costs and another linked to asymmetric information costs. To some extent, spreads do not measure adverse selection costs exactly. In order to have more robust results, we rely on the model developed by Easley, Kiefer and O'Hara (1997) to measure information asymmetry. Their model allows the probability of informed trading to be estimated from the observation of the order flow. We computed the PIN measure defined by Easley, Kiefer, O'Hara and Paperman (1996), which is based on trade direction. The probability of observing B buys and S sells on a given day can be expressed as follows: L((Bt , S t )(α , δ , µ , ε )) = (1 − α ) × e + αδ × e

− ( 2ε + µ )

(ε ) (µ + ε ) Bt

Bt !

St !

St

− 2ε

(ε )B (ε )S t

t

Bt !

St !

+ α (1 − δ ) × e

− ( 2ε + µ )

,

(ε )S (µ + ε )B t

St !

(4)

t

Bt !

where α is the probability of an information event that is bad news with probability δ , and good news with probability 1-δ. The arrival rate of informed trades is µ. ε is the rate of uninformed buy and sell trade arrivals. Over an observation period of T days, the likelihood of observing (Bt , S t )t =1 buys and T

sells corresponds to the product of the daily likelihoods:

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 19

T L (Bt , St )Tt=1 (α , δ , µ , ε ) = ∏ L((Bt , St )(α , δ , µ , ε )) .   t =1

(5)

In order to estimate the parameters, we maximize the likelihood defined in equation (5), and the PIN is calculated as: PIN =

αµ . αµ + 2ε

(6)

The PIN measure may also include potential effects of liquidity unrelated to information asymmetry. In order to control these effects, we have also computed the adjusted measure of PIN developed by Duarte and Young (2009). AdjPIN is calculated as: AdjPIN =

αµ . αµ + 2∆ × (αθ '+(1 − α )θ ) + 2ε

(7)

where θ measures the probability of an event that is conditional on the absence of private information. θ’ is the probability of an event that is conditional on the arrival of private information. ∆ measures the additional arrival rate of buys and sells. 4.2.2. Development of the index of Internet disclosure Two methods are generally used to assess the level of information disclosure. The direct method uses estimates published by professional institutions that regularly assess the supply of information by quoted

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 20

companies. For example, the Association for Investment and Management Research (AIMR) publishes an annual ranking of financial transparency in a report giving assessments by analysts on the disclosure practices of firms that has been used as a proxy of disclosure policy in many prior studies. (Lang & Lundholm 1993, 1996; Welker 1995; Sengupta 1998; Bamber & Cheon 1998; Healy, Hutton & Palepu 1999; Botosan & Plumlee 2002; Brown & Hillegeist 2007). The indirect method uses an assessment index created by researchers. Since the work of Pirchegger and Wagenhofer (1999), the measurement of Internetbased disclosure has become increasingly sophisticated. This can be seen not only in the increase in the number of items on the checklist, but also by the introduction of new criteria in the division of items. Ettredge, Richardson and Scholz (2002) use a checklist of items that distinguishes the SEC5 required disclosure from voluntary disclosure items and they attempt to analyze the respective determinants separately. Since no direct measurement of our sample of French listed companies is available, we choose to follow the indirect method. In order to evaluate Internet-based disclosure, an index of 40 items is created on the basis of five prior studies (Deller, Stubenrath & Weber 1999; Debreceny, Gray & Mock 2001; Pirchegger & Wagenhofer 1999; Ettredge, Richardson & Scholz 2002;

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 21

Marston & Polei 2004) that have analyzed online disclosure practices. As Wallace, Naser and Mora (1994) indicate in their research, there is no general theory on how to build an index and its content changes from one research to another according to the focus of the study. We first summarize all the items used in these prior studies on firm reporting via the Internet. In order to limit our study to the field of voluntary disclosure, all the mandatory items (according to the AMF regulations) are excluded from the index. Second, we choose the items according to the focus of the study. The main objective of this study is to test whether the technological features of Internet disclosure can reduce information asymmetry. As a result, all items of this nature in the previous works are given priority consideration. Internet disclosure is generally considered as “timely” and “user-friendly.” In addition, we want to emphasize the “compatibility” of the website. The Internet is a multi-medium that assembles paper-based reports, video and voice documentations, etc. For this reason, some items 6, which are considered to be informational in prior research, can also be treated as an advantage of the Internet disclosure presentation in our study. We also introduce some new items, which have not been used in prior studies but are closely related to the technological features and advantages of Internet disclosure7.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 22

We assign one point to each item presented on the firm’s own website and which is available to the general public. The maximum possible score that a listed firm can obtain is 40 points. For each company, the total score is presented as the percentage of the actual score in relation to the maximum possible score. Therefore, the level of Internet-based disclosure (Score) of each company varies between 0 and 1, with 1 being the highest score and 0 the lowest. We want to point out that only the items presented on a HTML webpage can be considered in the data collection. The information contained in the annual or semester reports (PDF or Word format) was not scored in order to avoid repetition. We have focussed on the investor section which regroups all the important information for investors. However, we also consider the complete firm website because several technological feature items (such as “help site” “site plan”, “internal search engine”) of our index are designed for the whole website. All the firms’ websites in our sample were analyzed during the month of May and June in 2007. The entire index is presented in the Appendix II. 4.3. Analysis method The main purpose of this study is to analyze how Internet disclosure is related to information asymmetry. When studying this relationship, the reverse

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 23

causality between these two factors should be considered. As prior research points out, disclosure can reduce the level of information asymmetry, and firms that experience high information asymmetry may be more persuaded to release information so as to limit the adverse selection problem, ceteris paribus (Dye , 1985; Lang and Lundholm, 1993 ; Welker, 1995; Heflin, Shaw and Wild, 2005). To address the potential endogeneity problem, we run a Hausman test in order to choose between the OLS and the 2SLS methods. A dummy variable governance system is introduced as an instrumental variable in our tests. In fact, French legislation allows domestic publicly-listed companies to choose between a one-tier system8, mandatory in the AngloAmerican system, and a two-tier system, which is mandatory in countries such as Germany or Slovenia for example. This opportunity is unique in Europe. Because the two-tier system clearly separates the functions of management and control, it is supposed to provide a more effective management style. Therefore, the two-tier system should be associated with higher disclosure quality (Charreaux, 1997). Furthermore, no prior literature suggests that the government system may have a direct impact on information asymmetry. In addition to Internet-based disclosure, a series of variables was also incorporated in the regression model to analyze the determinants of information asymmetry. These include turnover, stock return volatility, share

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 24

price and ownership concentration. The selection of the control variables is based on the prior literature (Chang, D’Anna, Watson & Wee 2008; Lang & Lundholm 1993; Leuz & Verrecchia 2000; Petersen & Plenborg 2006, etc.). 

Trading volume (Turnover)

From a theoretical point of view, there are several arguments supporting the fact that trading volume should reduce information asymmetry and also the bid-ask spread. Copeland and Galai (1983) study information effects on the spread and show that the bid-ask spread and also information asymmetry is a negative function of measures of trading activity. In their model, the probability of informed trading is higher for thinly traded stocks, because these stocks are on average more closely held. As a consequence of holding the size as constant, low trading volume means less frequent trading. Thus, trading volume is negatively associated with information asymmetry and bid-ask spreads. This explanation holds if the size of transaction remains constant. Moreover, if we focus on information asymmetry, trading volume captures the degree of trading activity and stock market liquidity. It indicates the willingness of market participants to sell and buy shares. Leuz and Verrecchia (2000) suggest that trading activity reflects the attractiveness of a stock. Stocks with higher liquidity are relatively more attractive to investors, and this could improve the degree of public information (analysts, press coverage) and reduce

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 25

information asymmetry to this extent. Finally, Ho and Stoll (1981) predict that trading volume should reduce spreads due to economies of scale. Among the different measures of volume, the rotation rate with the best properties would seem to be the metric. Consequently, we define trading volume as: Turnover = log

Daily trading volume NOSH×NOSHFF

.

(8)

where trading volume is the total number of traded shares on a given day. NOSH is the total number of ordinary shares, NOSHFF is the free-float percentage of total shares available to ordinary investors9. All variables were extracted from Datastream. 

Stock return volatility (Volatility)

Stock return volatility should enlarge the bid-ask spread due to risk-bearing (Roll 1984; Glosten 1987). In the capital market, stock return volatility generally indicates the degree of uncertainty or risk. In this case, the risk of not holding an optimal position increases. As a consequence, higher volatility leads to greater spreads. Copeland and Galai (1983) insist on the role of specific risk in their model. As specific risk increases, information asymmetry should also increase. Stock return volatility is measured by the standard deviation of daily stock returns. 

Stock Price (LnPrice)

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 26

Price level allows for the effect of discreteness to be controlled. Stocks with low price levels tend to be new, smaller in size and above all riskier. This additional risk leads to an enlargement of the bid-ask spread. Stoll (2000) has proved that the relative spread is negatively related to the price level in logarithm. The stock price is therefore measured in logarithm. 

Ownership concentration (Bloc)

Agency theory suggests that individual investors are in an unfavorable informational position relative to managers and majority shareholders. Therefore, when ownership structure is more dispersed, the risk of information asymmetry is more likely to be effective. These situations increase agency problems and imply higher monitoring costs. The study of Glosten and Milgrom (1985) point out that large shareholders attempt to trade on their insider information and extract private benefits and firm control. Such an agency problem results in a larger spread and lower stock liquidity. Moreover, Attig et al. (2006) provide empirical evidence on the positive relationship between ownership concentration and information asymmetry. Therefore, it is supposed that the ownership concentration is positively linked to the level of information asymmetry. Ownership concentration is measured by the proportion of capital held by blockholders (investors owning 5% or more of a firm’s stock).

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 27

The next equation summarizes the regression model: 𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰𝑰 𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂𝒂 = 𝛼𝛼 +

𝛽𝛽1 𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼𝐼_𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏𝑏 𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑 + 𝛽𝛽2 𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇𝑇 +

(9)

𝛽𝛽3 𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉𝑉 + 𝛽𝛽4 𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃𝑃 + 𝛽𝛽5 𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵𝐵 +ε. 5. Empirical results 5.1. Descriptive statistics

The statistics are set out in Table 2. The results of the overall Internet-based voluntary disclosure (Score) indicate that the highest score achieved by any company is 0.85, while the lowest is 0.125. The mean value is 0.422. These results suggest that, across the 180 listed companies in the sample, there is widespread variation in the global level of voluntary disclosure via the Internet. As far as information asymmetry is concerned, relative spreads vary from 0.04% to a maximum of 4.23%. The means are 0.68 % and 0.70% respectively for three and six months. By comparison, Yoon, Zo and Ciganek (2011) find a mean of 0.7% for the South-Korean market over the period 2007-2008. The mean of the PIN estimates over three and six months are respectively equal to 0.1818 and 0.1794, which is consistent with the estimation given by Easley, Hvidkjaer and O’Hara (2002). Duarte and Young (2009) calculate a median for

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 28

adjusted PIN equal to 0.17, a result confirmed by our estimates of 0.14 and 0.15 respectively for three and six months. On average, 51.9% of the outstanding shares are held by blockholders. With an American sample, Kelton and Yang (2008) highlight that the average percentage of capital held by block shareholders is about 20%. Marston and Polei’s study (2004) shows that the average free-float coefficients of German listed companies is 42.75%. Compared with their counterparts, French companies have a much higher concentration of capital. TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE 5.2. Correlation analysis Table 3 - Panel A shows the correlation of a three month period while Panel B presents a six month period. Both show the Pearson correlations between information asymmetry and the explanatory variables. At first, the five measures of information asymmetry (Relative Spread, time-weighted quoted spreads, effective spreads, PIN and AdjPIN) are significantly and positively related one to another. The level of Internet-based voluntary disclosure (Score) is negatively related to all these measures of information asymmetry. A higher level of information disclosure through the Internet may lead to a lower level of information asymmetry.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 29

Moreover, variables Spread, PIN and AdjPIN are also negatively related to the turnover ratio, and to the standard-deviation of stock returns. These results are consistent with previous empirical findings in the field of market microstructure (e.g. Huang and Stoll, 1996; Stoll, 2000; Venkataraman, 2001). The ownership concentration (Bloc) is negatively related to the Web disclosure but positively linked to all the 10 information asymmetry measures. We also find that variable governance is negatively related to the internetbased disclosure. The result suggests that the firms under the one-tier government system release more information via the Internet. It seems that French firms use the two-tier system as a substitute for information transparency. Furthermore, no significant relationship between governance and the information asymmetry measures is observed. We may therefore use governance as an instrumental variable in the regression tests. TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE 5.3. Regression estimation results As discussed in the previous section, a reverse causality relationship may exist between information asymmetry and disclosure, and lead to an inconsistent OLS estimator. The Hausman test is therefore introduced to check for this potential endogenous problem. Using Governance as the instrumental variable, the Hausman test results (Table 4) indicate that the dependent

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 30

variables are not affected by the endogeneous effect. The OLS regression model is therefore used in the next analysis. TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE As the link between Internet-based disclosure and information asymmetry is analyzed for two different periods (three and six months), the empirical results are presented through two different tables (Tables 5 and 6). Both tables contain five models according to the measure of information asymmetry (Relative Spread, time-weighted quoted spreads, effective spreads, PIN and AdjPIN). Models 1 to 3 are developed using the variations of spread in relation to the Web disclosure, the turnover ratio, the stock return volatility, the ownership concentration and the price level. Models 4 and 5 are developed to refine the analysis by using PIN and Adjusted PIN as dependent variables. TABLES 5 AND 6 ABOUT HERE We can observe that the coefficients of Score in the first three models are significantly negative at the 1% level. The results indicate that enhanced disclosure via the Internet reduces the level of spread which is in accordance with past research (Petersen and Plenborg 2006). Compared with Spread, PIN and AdjPIN are more precise measures of information asymmetry because they exclude other effects, such as fixed costs, inventory effects or liquidity effects. According to previous research in market microstructure, PIN and AdjPIN can

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 31

better capture information asymmetry. Results in models 4 and 5 show that Web-based disclosure is negatively and significantly related to PIN and AdjPIN. This confirms our findings in models 1 to 3. The effect of Internetbased disclosure on the spread is only due to information asymmetry. Therefore, models 4 and 5 provide strong support for the impact of Web-based disclosure on the reduction of information asymmetry. This result is proved whatever the period, either three or six months. Therefore, we validate our hypothesis. Furthermore, we find that the Turnover coefficient is significantly negative in all the models. This is consistent with the theory that higher levels of trading volume will improve stock liquidity, therefore leading to a reduction of information asymmetry. We ran the VIF test to control the multicollinearity and the results show that no variance inflation factor values are greater than 1.8. We used the Breusch-Pagan test to control for the potential risk of heteroscedasticity; the results indicate that some models do not satisfy the constant variance assumption. We therefore ran the regression with robust standard errors to control for the heteroscedasticity problem; the results (which are not reported here) indicate that the negative relationship between Internetbased disclosure and information asymmetry are not affected by heteroscedasticity. Our empirical results are therefore robust.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 32

Overall, these results are consistent with the specificities of the French institutional environment. France belongs to the category of code-law countries (by opposition to the category of common-law countries). Code-law countries such as France are characterized by high ownership concentration, a model of corporate governance that is less oriented towards the shareholders and with less information content of accounting information that is reinforced by less frequent disclosure. As a consequence, Web-based disclosure in code-law countries may play a greater role in reducing information asymmetry between managers and shareholders. Furthermore, our findings highlight the importance of the network technology in the reduction of information asymmetry. 6. Conclusion Firm disclosure is one of the fundamental elements affecting the efficiency of the capital market (Healy & Palepu 2001; Shaw 2003). It is important for managers, investors and regulators to understand the interaction between information disclosure practices and information asymmetry. This paper focuses on online disclosure practices resulting from the rapid growth in the use of the Internet for financial reporting (Marston & Polei 2004; Bollen, Hassink & Bozic 2006). The main objective is to analyze how the use of the Internet for disclosure affects information asymmetry in the capital market.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 33

As an extension of previous research, an index consisting of 40 items is developed in order to assess the information released via the Internet in France. Based on a sample of 180 French listed companies belonging to the SBF 250 index, we observe a strong negative relationship between Internet disclosure and the level of information asymmetry. These findings are consistent with research carried out in other countries, and the characteristics of the French institutional environment. The empirical findings suggest that it is important for French quoted companies to increase information transparency in order to reduce information asymmetry and improve investor relations. The relationship between financial disclosure and information asymmetry is a classic subject and has been studied in prior research by examining traditional paper-based media such as annual reports. One might ask whether it is necessary to retest this relationship by analyzing the information spread via the Internet. Indeed, the Internet could be treated as an information media, along with other traditional paper-based media. However, certain special features of Internet-based disclosure highlights the necessity to retest the impact of this media. Internet technologies can gather a huge amount of information and this far exceeds traditional paper-based media. Another consequence is that rumors circulate fast online. Is Internet-based disclosure a useful communication tool to reduce the information gap, or is it a costly tool which causes more misunderstandings? Answers to these questions require

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 34

more testing. The empirical results of this study prove the positive effect of Web-based disclosure on the reduction of information asymmetry. Although there are some potential drawbacks, Internet-based disclosure can still effectively reduce the problem of information asymmetry. More importantly, our results show that Internet technologies have greatly enriched information presentation methods. And these user-friendly Web technologies, such as financial reports in Excel format, are useful to reduce the information gap. These findings emphasize the need for the normalization of Web disclosure in both content and presentation perceptions. This research is not without limitations. The negative effects of financial reporting, such as losing an advantage in a competitive market, are not considered in our research. Furthermore, the research only examines certain factors that may influence information asymmetry. Other new factors, such as the role of financial analysts, should be introduced into future research. Lastly, as firms are generally motivated to lower their cost of capital, it would be interesting to determine whether the impact of Web disclosure on information asymmetry helps the firm to benefit from a lower cost of capital over the long term.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 35

APPENDIX I. SUMMARY OF REGULATED INFORMATION IN FRENCH CAPITAL MARKET The AMF press release of January 22, 2007, summarized the following documents, which are listed in article 221-1 of the AMF’s General Regulations, as “regulated information”: • The annual financial report; • The half-yearly financial report; • The quarterly financial disclosure; • The report on internal control procedures and reports from independent auditors on the aforementioned reports; • The news release concerning fees paid to independent auditors; • Monthly statement on the total number of voting rights and the number of shares making up the share capital; • The description of share buy-back programs; • Privileged information; • The news release setting out the procedures for providing a prospectus; • The notice describing the means by which information will be made available to shareholders prior to a shareholders’ meeting;

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 36

• Information about modifications in the rights attached to different categories of shares and the issuances of new shares.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 37

APPENDIX II-INTERNET-BASED DISCLOSURE INDEX

N 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Index Current share price Press releases Annual report – interactive version Internal search engine Investor relations e-mail address Newsletters/ Mailing list Annual report in pdf format Frequently asked questions Financial report in Excel format Direct e-mail hyperlink to investor relations Monthly information releases Site plan English version of site Quick access to financial section (one click) Video files Images Help site Site available in text-only format Direct link to Euronext Historical share prices 2001-2003 annual reports 2004-2006 annual reports Annual report in html format Comparison with benchmark indices (CAC40/SBF120/SBF250) Documentation of financial analysts' conferences Flash Grouping of AMF-regulated financial information Monthly earnings or sales Non-commercial communication Printer-friendly version of site Site loads in less than five seconds Vocal files Ability to download useful software, e.g. pdf/RSS readers Historical dividends Investor club or forum Site available in a choice of third language Financial calendar Postal address of investor relations Telephone number reserved for investor relations Free helpline for shareholders

Overlap with prior research a,b,c,d,e a,b,c,d,e a,b,c,e a,b,c,e a,b,c,e a,b,e a,c,e a,d,e a,e b,c,e b,c,e b,c,e b,e b,e b,e c,e c,e d d e e e e e e e e e e e e e

a, d, e b, e e

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 38

Notes: Overlap with prior research: a = Deller, Stubenrath & Weber (1999) b = Pirchegger & Wagenhofer (1999) c = Debreceny, Gray & Mock (2002) d = Ettredge, Richardson & Scholz (2002) e = Marston & Polei (2004)

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 39

NOTES 1

2

XBRL: eXtensible Business Reporting Language The publication of quarterly accounts by French firms on 1st and 3rd quarters

is not mandatory. Only turnover publication is required. 3

Directive 2004/109/CE of the European Parliament and the Council of 15

December, 2004, on the harmonization of transparency requirements in relation to information about issuers whose securities are admitted to trading on a regulated market. 4

AMF (“Autorité des Marchés Français”) stands for French Financial

Authority. 5

6

Securities Exchange Committee The item “annual reports of former years” is considered as information

content in the study of Marston and Polei (2004); we treat it as an advantage of Internet presentation in items 21 and 22. 7

For example, item 35: Investor club or forum, item 36: Site available in a

choice of third language. 8

Under the one-tier system, a company is operated by one corporate body that

undertakes both the management and monitoring functions. Under the two-tier system, a company is governed by two separate bodies: the board of directors takes the function of management while the supervisory board assures the

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 40

function of control and supervision. One-tier firms are coded 0, while two-tier firms are coded 1. 9

As we discard days with no trading activity, the logarithm of volume is

always defined.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 41

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Table 1-Sample by sector Sector Oil and Gas Basic Materials Industrials Consumer Goods Health Care Consumer Services Telecommunications Utilities Technology Total

Number 6 4 41 38 14 34 2 6 35 180

Percentage 3.33% 2.22% 22.78% 21.11% 7.78% 18.89% 1.11% 3.33% 19.44% 100.00%

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 52

Table 2 - Descriptive statistics Window

3 months

6 months

Variable Score LnPrice Bloc Governance R_Spread E_Spread W_Spread PIN AdjPIN Turnover Volatility R_Spread E_Spread W_Spread PIN AdjPIN Turnover Volatility

Mean 0.4219 3.6830 0.5192 0.2889 0.0068 0.0047 0.0089 0.1818 0.1578 -12.8326 0.6970 0.0070 0.0049 0.0091 0.1794 0.1636 -12.8634 0.5281

Std. Dev. 0.1262 0.9044 0.2394 0.4545 0.0066 0.0046 0.0063 0.1121 0.0996 1.0501 2.8034 0.0069 0.0048 0.0063 0.0979 0.0805 1.0423 2.0663

Min 0.1250 0.0807 0.0000 0.0000 0.0005 0.0004 0.0022 0.0000 0.0000 -15.4618 0.0102 0.0004 0.0004 0.0023 0.0002 0.0000 -15.4525 0.0116

Max

0.8500 6.4629 1.0000 1.0000 0.0406 0.0245 0.0472 0.7071 0.7071 -10.6601 31.4317 0.0423 0.0266 0.0462 0.5461 0.5461 -10.7184 21.3918

Note: The number of observations is equal to 180; Score is the level of Internet-based disclosure; R_Spread is the average quoted spread; W_Spread is the time-weighted average quoted spreads; E_Spread is the average effective spread; PIN is the probability of informed trading defined by Easley et al. (1996); AdjPIN is the adjusted PIN developed by Duarte and Young (2009); Turnover is the rotation rate of stocks; Volatility is measured by the standard deviation of daily stock returns; LnPrice is the stock price measured in logarithm; Bloc represents the proportion of capital held by blockholders (those owning 5% or more of a firm’s stock); Governance is a binary variable defined to

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 53

measure the governance system: one-tier firms are coded 0, while two-tier firms are coded 1.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 54

Table 3 - Pearson correlation coefficients Panel A – three month study period (July to September 2007) R_Spread

Score -0.581

E_Spread

-0.5812

R_Spread

E_Spread

W_Spread

PIN

AdjPIN

Turnover

Volatility

LnPrice

Bloc

***

W_Spread PIN AdjPIN Turnover Volatility

0.9821

***

***

-0.5537

0.9497

***

***

***

-0.4382

0.4726

0.4542

***

***

***

***

-0.4279

0.4067

0.4033

0.3864

***

***

***

***

***

0.5573

-0.7529

-0.753

-0.6738

-0.468

***

***

***

***

***

***

0.1208

-0.1202

-0.122

-0.1289

-0.1303

-0.1547

0.1248

*

*

**

*

0.9252 0.4718 0.6161 -0.5485

LnPrice

0.0593

0.029

-0.0186

0.0039

-0.025

0.0125

-0.1017

0.0566

Bloc

-0.3768

0.4044

0.3871

0.4337

0.3071

0.451

-0.4717

-0.1819

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

**

*

-0.1476

0.0873

0.0719

0.1009

-0.0138

0.063

-0.1273

-0.0765

0.0804

Governance

**

*

0.1307 -0.0858

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 55

Panel B – six month study period (July to December 2007) R_Spread

Score -0.5845

E_Spread

-0.5822

R_Spread

E_Spread

W_Spread

PIN

AdjPIN Turnover Volatility LnPrice

Bloc

***

W_Spread PIN AdjPIN Turnover Volatility

0.9838

***

***

-0.5638

0.9549

***

***

***

-0.4552

0.5663

0.5377

***

***

***

***

-0.4726

0.5316

0.5123

0.5074

***

***

***

***

***

0.5632

-0.7706

-0.7739

-0.7016

-0.57

***

***

***

***

***

***

0.1207

-0.1279

-0.1317

-0.1361

-0.1737

-0.1294

*

*

*

**

*

*

0.9336 0.534 0.7064 -0.6147 0.1293

LnPrice

0.0593

0.0079

-0.0472

-0.0195

0.0074

0.0376

-0.0814

0.058

Bloc

-0.3768

0.4189

0.3934

0.4374

0.3644

0.4155

-0.491

-0.1794

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

**

*

-0.1476

0.0807

0.0706

0.0931

0.0543

0.0067

-0.1115

-0.0799

0.0804

Governance

0.1307 -0.0858

**

Note: The number of observations is equal to 180; * indicates Significance at the 10% level, ** at the 5% level, *** at the 1% level Score is the level of Internet-based disclosure; R_Spread is the average quoted spread; W_Spread is the time-weighted average quoted spread; E_Spread is the average effective spread; PIN is the probability of informed trading defined by Easley et al. (1996); AdjPIN is the adjusted PIN developed by Duarte and Young (2009); Turnover is the rotation rate of stocks; Volatility is

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 56

measured by the standard deviation of daily stock returns; LnPrice is the stock price measured in logarithm; Bloc represents the proportion of capital held by blockholders (those owning 5% or more of a firm’s stock); Governance is a binary variable defined to measure the governance system: one-tier firms are coded 0, while two-tier firms are coded 1.

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 57

Table 4 - Hausman's Specification Test Results Period

Dependent Variable R_Spread E_Spread 3 months W_Spread PIN AdjPIN R_Spread E_Spread 6 months W_Spread PIN AdjPIN

F 0.21 0.59 0.09 1.6 0.1 0.17 0.41 0.05 0.05 1.07

Prob>F 0.6494 0.4437 0.763 0.2072 0.7546 0.6823 0.5228 0.8186 0.8259 0.3031

Note: R_Spread is the average quoted spread; W_Spread is the time-weighted average quoted spread; E_Spread is the average effective spread; PIN is the probability of informed trading defined by Easley et al. (1996); AdjPIN is the adjusted PIN developed by Duarte and Young (2009).

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 58

Table 5 - Regression results for the 3 month study period Dependent Variable

Score Turnover Volatility LnPrice Bloc _cons

R_Spread t Coef. -3.8 -0.01176 -10 -0.00384 -0.2 -0.00002 -0.5 -0.00017 0.57 0.00088 -6.8 -0.03734

R² Adj R² F sig

0.60620 0.59480 53.26000 <0.0001

*** ***

***

E_Spread t Coef. -0.00809 -3.8 -0.00278 -10 -0.00002 -0.2 -0.00037 -1.5 0.00029 0.27 -0.02631 -6.8 0.61060 0.59890 54.15000 <0.0001

*** ***

0

W_Spread t Coef. -3.5 -0.01152 -7.2 -0.00293 -0.3 -0.00003 -0.9 -0.00033 1.91 0.00310 -4.2 -0.02424 0.51320 0.49920 36.48000 <0.0001

*** ***

* 0

PIN t Coef. -2.9 -0.20507 -3.6 -0.03238 -0.7 -0.00193 -0.7 -0.00610 0.98 0.03461 -1.1 -0.14154 0.27320 0.25220 13.00000 <0.0001

*** ***

AdjPIN t Coef. -1.7 -0.09912 -4.8 -0.03518 -0.8 -0.00177 -0.7 -0.00490 3.18 0.09331 -2.7 -0.28133

* ***

*** ***

0.36580 0.34750 19.96000 <0.0001

Note: The number of observations is equal to 180; * indicates Significance at the 10% level, ** at the 5% level, *** at the 1% level Score is the level of Internet-based disclosure; R_Spread is the average quoted spread; W_Spread is the time-weighted average quoted spread; E_Spread is the average effective spread; PIN is the probability of informed trading defined by Easley et al. (1996); AdjPIN is the adjusted PIN developed by Duarte and Young (2009); Turnover is the rotation rate of stocks; Volatility is measured by the standard deviation of daily stock returns; LnPrice is the stock price measured in logarithm; Bloc represents the proportion of capital held by blockholders (those owning 5% or more of a firm’s stock).

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 59

Table 6 - Regression results for the 6 month study period Dependent Variable

Score Turnover Volatility LnPrice Bloc _cons

R_Spread t Coef. -3.7 -0.01147 -11 -0.00420 -0.3 -0.00004 -0.7 -0.00026 0.52 0.00081 -7.3 -0.04164

R² Adj R² F sig

0.62900 0.61830 58.67000 <0.001

*** ***

***

E_Spread Coef. t -0.00761 -3.5 -0.00307 -11 -0.00004 -0.4 -0.00047 -1.9 -0 -0.00001 -0.02959 -7.5 0.63860 0.62820 61.14000 <0.001

*** ***

*

***

W_Spread t Coef. -3.5 -0.01112 -7.9 -0.00319 -0.4 -0.00006 -1.2 -0.00042 1.62 0.00257 -4.7 -0.02698 0.54500 0.53190 41.45000 <0.0001

PIN *** ***

***

Coef. -0.13604 -0.03980 -0.00382 -0.00265 0.03344 -0.28123 0.36450 0.34600 19.73000 <0.0001

t -2.3 -5.4 -1.3 -0.4 1.14 -2.7

** ***

***

AdjPIN t Coef. -0.10293 -2.2 -0.03550 -6.1 -0.00109 -0.5 -0.00043 -0.1 1.8 0.04160 -0.26923 -3.2

** ***

* ***

0.41380 0.39690 24.42000 <0.0001

Note: The number of observations is equal to 180; * indicates Significance at the 10% level, ** at the 5% level, *** at the 1% level Score is the level of Internet-based disclosure; R_Spread is the average quoted spread; W_Spread is the time-weighted average quoted spread; E_Spread is the average effective spread; PIN is the probability of informed trading defined by Easley et al. (1996); AdjPIN is the adjusted PIN developed by Duarte and Young (2009); Turnover is the rotation rate of stocks; Volatility is measured by the standard deviation of daily stock returns; LnPrice is the stock price measured in logarithm; Bloc represents the proportion of capital held by blockholders (those owning 5% or more of a firm’s stock)

Can Internet-Based Disclosure Reduce Information Asymmetry? 60