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Tone, readability and financial risk: the case of GCC banks

Tone, readability and financial risk: the case of GCC banks The authors investigate the impact of disclosure tones and financial risk on the readability of annual reports in the banking sector. The authors also examine the moderating effect of banks' financial risk on the tone–readability relationship.Design/methodology/approachThis study relies on the agency theory and the social psychology theory to formulate its testable hypotheses and explain the empirical findings. It uses a sample of 390 bank-year observations from banks listed in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Stock Exchanges during the period 2014–2019. It also employs random effect regressions to analyze the data and to examine the reverse causality/endogeneity in order to obtain robust findings.FindingsThis study’s results demonstrate that easy (difficult) to read annual reports is significantly associated with positive (negative) tone. Bank managers characterized as “too positive/optimistic” and banks with higher financial risks publish less readable annual reports. The results also show that the interaction between negative tone and a bank's financial risk is inversely associated with reading difficulty, indicating that managers prepare easy text to clarify causes of their banks’ high risks, yet they communicate this easy text with a negative tone that reflects their feelings/emotions towards the financial risks of their banks.Practical implicationsThis study’s findings call for the use of a plain English text that bears a neutral tone and urge financial analysts to go beyond the financial aspects of annual reports. They also stimulate policymakers to draft policies, which ensure the presence of audit committee members who possess a broad expertise to uncover the linguistic issues embedded in the annual reports.Originality/valueTo the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first study dedicated to exploring the tone–readability association in the GCC's banking sector. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies Emerald Publishing

Tone, readability and financial risk: the case of GCC banks

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2042-1168
DOI
10.1108/jaee-06-2021-0192
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The authors investigate the impact of disclosure tones and financial risk on the readability of annual reports in the banking sector. The authors also examine the moderating effect of banks' financial risk on the tone–readability relationship.Design/methodology/approachThis study relies on the agency theory and the social psychology theory to formulate its testable hypotheses and explain the empirical findings. It uses a sample of 390 bank-year observations from banks listed in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Stock Exchanges during the period 2014–2019. It also employs random effect regressions to analyze the data and to examine the reverse causality/endogeneity in order to obtain robust findings.FindingsThis study’s results demonstrate that easy (difficult) to read annual reports is significantly associated with positive (negative) tone. Bank managers characterized as “too positive/optimistic” and banks with higher financial risks publish less readable annual reports. The results also show that the interaction between negative tone and a bank's financial risk is inversely associated with reading difficulty, indicating that managers prepare easy text to clarify causes of their banks’ high risks, yet they communicate this easy text with a negative tone that reflects their feelings/emotions towards the financial risks of their banks.Practical implicationsThis study’s findings call for the use of a plain English text that bears a neutral tone and urge financial analysts to go beyond the financial aspects of annual reports. They also stimulate policymakers to draft policies, which ensure the presence of audit committee members who possess a broad expertise to uncover the linguistic issues embedded in the annual reports.Originality/valueTo the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first study dedicated to exploring the tone–readability association in the GCC's banking sector.

Journal

Journal of Accounting in Emerging EconomiesEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 7, 2022

Keywords: Readability; Tone; Risk; Agency theory; Social psychology theory

References