Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Finance

First Advisor

Sanjai Bhagat

Second Advisor

Bjorn N. Jorgensen

Third Advisor

Garland Durham

Abstract

La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, and Shleifer (2008) summarize the extensive literature which investigates the effect of countries legal origin on a variety of corporate governance outcomes at the country level. Recent papers find statistically significant differences in the ownership dispersion by comparing Quebec-based firms to non-Quebec Canadian firms. This paper takes a similar approach and exploits intra-country variation in the United States, based on the observation that all US states have common law, except Louisiana which has civil law. To compare dispersion in ownership within the US, I identify matched pairs for each publicly traded company in Louisiana. Contrary to prior research on Canadian firms, I find no evidence that companies' dispersion of ownership differs significantly between Louisiana and the remaining US states. This challenges the interpretation of prior studies. Chapter 2 (co-authored with Brian M. Burnett and Bjorn N. Jorgensen): This essay provides evidence on the link between legal origin and earnings attributes often associated with earnings quality. Prior studies perform country-level analyses and find evidence that earnings quality is higher in counties with common law (English legal origin) than in countries with civil law (which includes French legal origin). This paper takes a different approach and exploits within-country variation in Canada. Specifically our research is motivated by the observation that all Canadian providences have common law with the exception of Quebec which has civil law. We investigate whether common earnings attributes typically associated with earnings quality vary at the firm-level. We find that earnings attributes do vary with legal origin. Further, we analyze Canadian firms' decision regarding where to incorporate at either the Federal or province level. Our evidence suggests that Quebec firms' incorporation decision at either the Federal (common law) or province (civil law) leads to some differences in earnings quality, after controlling for differences in accounting standards hypothesized by Ball, Kothari and Robin (2000).

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