The impact of events on annual reporting disclosures

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Burchell, Club and Hopwood (1985) considered that “little is known of how...wider social forces can impinge upon and change accounting” (p.382). This study identifies six political forces that may have instigated changes in accounting practice and annual reporting of a New Zealand electricity entity. Based on the literature (Hopwood, 1983, 1990; Napier, 1989; Gray and Haslam, 1990; Thomson, 1993) it is expected that significant changes in the environment in which the entity operates will effect changes in reporting. The study compares the annual report disclosures of an Electricity Supply Authority on a yearly basis from 1970 to 2001 - a 18 year period with little significant environmental impact in the electricity industry with a period of intense activity in the following 14 years. The study found considerable evidence that the change from a local body accountable to electors/consumers to a public company accountable to shareholders, led to a greater emphasis on profits and earnings per share as a means of measuring performance. It identifies specific changes in accounting practice that support this view as well as a period of “big bath” accounting, decreasing disclosure of commercially sensitive information, and the increasing use of dramatic presentation in the annual report.
Disclosure (Accounting), Electricity company accounting