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Chapter 1

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Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1
Introduction
1.1

The Objective of This Book

1.2

Some Historical Perspective

1.3

A Note on Ethical Behaviour

1.4

The Complexity of Information in Financial Accounting and Reporting

1.5

The Role of Accounting Research

1.6

The Importance of Information Asymmetry

1.7

The Fundamental Problem of Financial Accounting Theory

1.8

Regulation as a Reaction to the Fundamental Problem

1.9

The Organization of This Book
1.9.1 Ideal Conditions
1.9.2 Adverse Selection
1.9.3 Moral Hazard
1.9.4 Standard Setting
1.9.5 The Process of Standard Setting

1.10

Relevance of Financial Accounting Theory to Accounting Practice

Copyright © 2009 Pearson Education Canada

Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVES AND SUGGESTED TEACHING APPROACHES
1.

The Broad Outline of the Book

I use Figure 1.1 as a template to describe the broad outline of the book and course. Since the students typically have not had a chance to read Chapter 1 in the first course session, I stick fairly closely to the chapter material.
The major points I discuss are:


Accounting in an ideal setting. Here, present-value-based accounting is natural. I go over the ideal conditions needed for such a basis of accounting to be feasible, but do not go into much detail because this topic is covered in greater depth in Chapter 2.



An introduction to the concept of information asymmetry and resulting problems of adverse selection and moral hazard. These problems are basic to the book and I feel it is desirable for the students to have a “first go” at them at this point. I concentrate on the intuition underlying the two problems. For example, I illustrate adverse selection by asking them who would be first in line to purchase life insurance if there was no medical examination, or what quality of used cars are likely to be brought to market. For moral hazard I try to pin them down on how hard they would work in this course if there were no exams.



The environment in which financial accounting and reporting operates. My main goal at this point is that the students do not take this environment for granted. I discuss the procedures of standard setting briefly and point out that this is really a process of regulation. I usually refer to a well-known case of deregulation, such as airlines, trucking, financial institutions, power generation, and ask what would happen to the accounting “industry” if there were similar deregulation, that is, no accounting standards and no
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Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

mandatory audits. Instructors who are familiar with the concept of signalling (Section 12.5.2) may wish to bring it into the discussion at this point, as an example of a private mechanism for production of information. 2.

The Concept of Information

By now, I will have referred to the term “information” several times. I suggest that it is easy to take this term for granted, and call for definitions. This usually generates considerable hesitation by the students. The purpose at this point is simply to get them to realize that information is a complex commodity. Indeed, I make an analogy between the financial accounting and reporting industry and a stereotypical manufacturing industry such as agriculture or automobiles, and ask what is the product of the accounting industry, why is it valuable, how is it quantified. I do not go deeply into the answers to questions like these, since some decision-theoretic machinery needs to be developed (Section 3.3) before a precise definition of information can be given. Nevertheless, I try to end up with the conclusions that information has something to do with improving the process of decision-making, and that it is crucial to the operation of securities markets.
3.

Relevance to Accounting Practice

My undergraduate accounting theory classes usually consist of a majority of students who are heading for the accounting profession and who will be writing the uniform final exam (UFE) of the CICA. Other students use this textbook as part of coursework required by CGA Canada. There are usually also some students heading for careers in management.
Since students who are facing the UFE and CGA exams can be quite focused in their learning objectives, it is essential that the nature of the course in relation to these objectives be discussed up front.
I begin by pointing out that most of the topics covered in the text are included in the UFE syllabus, although not necessarily at the highest level of competence.
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Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

The course is intended to give the student an appreciation and understanding of the financial reporting environment, which should help with breadth questions on professional exams. I also argue that one’s career continues well beyond attainment of the CA or CGA designation, and that the nature of the book is longer-run and designed to foster a critical awareness of the financial accounting environment which is needed if one is to become a thoughtful professional.
Arguments such as these can only be pushed so far. Nevertheless, I think it is important to make them. I also point out that the text includes coverage of major accounting standards such as intangible assets, ceiling tests, financial instruments, and that they will have the opportunity to learn about these standards on the way through.
I also refer the students to Section 1.10, and emphasize that the text recognizes an obligation to convince them that the material is relevant to their careers. To do this, the text explains theoretical concepts in intuitive terms, and illustrates and motivates the concepts based on a series of Theory in Practice vignettes, and problem material based frequently on articles from the financial press.
For the management students in the class, and for the professional accounting students who may some day be managers, I emphasize that the text does not ignore them. Chapters 8 to 11 inclusive (the bottom branch of Figure 1.1) deal with topics of interest to managers, including economic consequences, conflict resolution, executive compensation and earnings management. All of these topics demonstrate that management has a legitimate interest in financial reporting. I also argue that Chapters 2 to 7 inclusive (the top branch of Figure
1.1) are relevant to managers since they give insights into how financial accounting information is used by investors. Finally, since management is a major constituency in standard-setting, a critical awareness of the need for standard setting and the standard-setting process (Chapters 12 and 13) is useful for any manager.

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Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

I have not had problems with student course evaluations as a result of using the material in this book. In fact, I have constantly been surprised at how far one can push the students in a theoretical direction providing that I rely on the textbook material to give the students an intuitive understanding, and concentrate in class on illustrating, motivating and discussing the application of the concepts. For this,
I find that The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and the Globe and Mail Report on Business, in particular, are helpful sources of articles which I bring to class to serve as a basis for discussion. Increasingly, however, I find that the websites of financial media, corporations, standard setters, and regulators, provide information to augment or replace such articles.
4.

The Structure of Standard-Setting Bodies

In this edition, I have moved the descriptive material about various standardsetting bodies from the last chapter to the first, to give students some awareness of the various bodies involved in the regulation of financial reporting. I have also oriented this edition to standards issued by the International Accounting
Standards Board (IASB), in view of the impending adoption of IASB in Canada.
This results in de-emphasis of the CICA Handbook. However, since the
Handbook is quite similar to IASB standards at a conceptual level, this change has little effect on the concepts and organization of the text.
5.

Social Issues Underlying Regulation

Instructors who wish to dig more deeply into social issues underlying financial reporting and standard setting can usefully spend a class session on the 1982
Merino and Neimark paper (in Section 1.2). This paper raises fundamental issues about the role of financial reporting in society which go well beyond the textbook coverage of this paper, which confines itself largely to a brief description of reporting problems leading up to the great stock market crash of 1929 and the creation of the SEC. It provides food for thought both for those who do and do not favour the present financial reporting environment. For a contrasting view from that of Merino and Neimark, Benston’s 1973 article is also worth assigning.
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Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

I have also included in Section 1.2 a summary of the Enron and WorldCom financial reporting disasters. Instructors may wish to discuss these episodes at this point, both because they are important illustrations of the relevance of theory to practice and are referred to frequently throughout the book.
Section 1.3 introduces the topic of ethics. With the extent of accountant and auditor involvement in numerous financial reporting disasters that have come to light since 2000, such as Enron and WorldCom, the importance of ethical behaviour is very much apparent. Some brief discussion of more specific ethical issues has also been incorporated into various parts of the text and problem material. Hopefully, this will open the door for instructors who wish to dig more deeply into ethical behaviour.
I emphasize, however, that ethics tends to produce similar behaviour as a longerrun maximization of one’s own interests. Thus, a longer–run view of ethical behaviour quickly turns into questions of full disclosure, usefulness, reputation, and cooperative behaviour. The text tends to emphasize these latter components of professional responsibility, although, as mentioned, specific ethical issues are introduced at various points.
6.

I have not prepared any questions and problems for this chapter. One

reason is that I usually like to let the first week of classes pass before giving formal assignments. More fundamentally, I use this first week to describe and motivate the text material, as outlined above, and most of the material in Chapter
1 is covered in greater detail later. However, extensive problem material is provided for the remaining chapters of the book.
Nevertheless, for instructors who wish to discuss and/or assign problem material at this point, ceiling tests for property, plant and equipment provide a focus for many of the concepts of this book. Ceiling tests are outlined and discussed in
Section 7.2.5 of the text. Issues which could usefully be considered include:

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Instructor’s Manual—Chapter 1

- What is the usual basis of valuation of capital assets? Why?
- Why do GAAP require ceiling tests? Conservatism in accounting can be introduced here.
- Should the carrying values of capital assets be written up after having been written down?
- What is the impact of ceiling test writedowns on reported future profits?
- Why might management oppose ceiling tests?
One reason why I raise questions like these at this point is to gain a preliminary impression of the background and ability of the class.

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