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ACCOUNTING 26:010:652
Advanced Topics in Management Accounting
Fall 2009

Instructor: Dr. Michael Alles
Office: 1WP 928
Office Hours: F 9:00-10:00 or by appointment
Phone: (973) 353 5352

In recent years my colleagues and I have noticed that when we are recruiting we come across newly minted PhD students who are usually highly technically proficient in terms of being able to run regressions, do statistical testing, solve analytic models or whatever, but they often fail to demonstrate that they have thoroughly thought about their papers—in other words, when you push them about the implicit and explicit assumptions and implications of their research models, it appears that they haven’t really given these matters much thought at all.[1] Too often they fall back on saying that they are doing what they are doing because that is the way it is done in the prior literature, which is more of an excuse than a answer. (Of course, once a researcher reaches a certain age, they all feel that youngsters aren’t as good as they were in the good old days!)

Therefore, in this class we shall go beyond simply studying research in managerial accounting. For many of you, this is your first introduction to accounting research and to PhD level class. Hence, in these classes we shall also learn how to solve business problems systematically and to understand what it means to have thoroughly “thought through” a paper. We begin not with academic research, but with some real world cases, because we should never forget that ours is an applied research field: accounting research is a means towards the end of understanding business and is not an end in itself, in the way pure science research is. Developing a systematic procedure for solving a real world business problem is the starting point for developing a research model that generalizes insights gained from practice about how businesses operate—which is a fairly good definition of what research in accounting is trying to accomplish.

Furthermore, we shall also act as referees of several research papers, to learn what makes a good paper and what can undermine one. Being a good referee requires not just a command of the literature that underlies the paper being reviewed, but also an ability to explicitly identify and assess the assumptions and economic forces that may be only implicitly revealed in the paper. For all practical purposes you need to understand the paper at least as well, if not better than its own authors, and developing the skill to do that is an excellent way of learning how to be a good researcher in your own right.

Of course, we will not neglect the fundamental concepts of research in management accounting. In particular, we shall examine the principal-agent models that underlies much of that research and we shall work through the solutions to some specific key models. We shall also examine empirical and behavioral research in accounting, as well as criticisms of that work.

Course Information

Textbook: All papers and cases listed on the syllabus will be available on Blackboard. While there is no textbook assigned for this class, students will most likely need to refer to textbooks in management accounting, economics and game theory to help them understand the research literature. Here are some useful texts in these topics:

1. Any textbook in cost accounting to serve as a background reference and which will give background on such practice tools as costing and budgeting. For example, one suitable book, which is the most widely used management accounting text, is Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis by Horngren, Datar, Foster, Rajan and Ittner, (any recent edition), Prentice Hall. 2. A Course in Microeconomic Theory by David Kreps, Princeton, 1990. A modern classic and the best available coverage of modern game theory based microeconomics. The sections on the principal/agent model and adverse selection are very helpful. 3. Choices, Values and Frames by Kahneman and Twersky, Cambridge, 2000. A brilliant collection of papers laying out the behaviorist’s perspective of decision-making and human behavior.

Evaluation: Announced in class. Accounting 26:010:652
Advanced Topics in Management Accounting
Rutgers Business School

Course Schedule

Given the nature of a PhD class, this schedule only lists topics and not dates. We shall go through the topics at a comfortable pace that ensures that all students understand the material and move on to the next topic only when you feel that all your questions have been answered. Quality of learning, not quantity, is what we are looking for.

Topic 1: From Business Problems to Applied Research

1. Discretionary Cost Center

Discussion Questions:

1. Define the problem that management is facing.
2. What hypotheses are there for why this problem has arisen?
3. Given those hypotheses, come up with possible solutions. Then explain which solution you will choose to adopt and why.
4. Discuss the pros and cons of the proposed change to the charging system for engineering time.

This short case is extremely rich and shows how management problems that appear to be obvious and superficial often have complex roots that can only be uncovered through a rigorous and systematic approach to decision making.

Let me clarify that for our purposes the object of doing this case is not finding “the solution” to this case, but, rather, in developing a systematic process that will help us to obtain the solution to this or any other business problem. It is that systematic process that we can also then apply to our academic research.

2. Mueller-Lehmkuhl GmbH

Discussion Questions:

1. How much profit does Muller-Lehmkuhl make on the sale of fasteners? On the sale and rental of attaching machines?
2. Exhibit 6 shows the reported product costs for five representative products. How accurate do you think these numbers are? If you think they are inaccurate, what is your best estimate of the product costs?

Note Total budgeted direct labor dollars (including setup) for 1986 were $1.61 million (Exhibit 1). The direct labor dollar content (including setup) of the five representative products is: S-Spring: $1.32, Ring: $1.43, Prong (B): $0.14, Prong (SS): $0.27, Tack: $0.66

3. What additional information would you like before giving a definitive answer to Question 2?
4. How would you change the firm’s pricing strategy to compete better with the Japanese? Would you implement this change?
5. Should Richard Welkers be worried about the Japanese?

This is an intricate case, which provides practice on doing a complex Activity Based Costing (ABC) calculation. The accounting system at Muller-Lehmkuhl is not exactly opaque, though it was fully in accordance with German law at that time. The question the case poses is why the company chooses to cost in the way that it does, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of the current and proposed ABC cost systems. Pay particular attention to Exhibit 5, which is a market analysis across Mueller-Lehmhuhl’s main European competitors. What role do you think such a strategic analysis should play in the firm’s costing problem?

With the Mueller-Lehmkuhl case too, we are not analyzing it for its own sake, but to think about how we would generalize the takeaway from the case into a proper, rigorous research paper. I want you to analyze the case and then get together in a group of three students and to develop an analytic model of the economic forces illustrated in the case. In other words, you are required to undertake applied research. Please write up your analysis of this case and submit it to me in class. Each group should also prepare a 20 minute presentation of their model to present to the rest of the class.

3. Value-Added accounting research

Please read Exploiting Comparative Advantage: A Paradigm for Value Added Research in Accounting Information Systems, Michael Alles, Alexander Kogan, Miklos Vasarhelyi. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 202-215, 2008.

While this particular paper is on AIS research, I was motivated to write it by the question of how accounting research can add value to the profession of accounting. The issues raised are equally relevant to managerial accounting.

Topic 2: Alternative Research Approaches

Accounting research need not be restricted to one methodology or paradigm, though it sometimes seem that way. That is not to say that all accounting researchers accord all approaches the same respect.

Using the important topic of Activity Based Costing as an example, we shall see how a practice from management accounting can be examined from a variety of different perspectives and using multiple methodologies.

Selected Readings (Is shall refine this list by the time we come to it in class):

1. Datar S. and M. Gupta, (1994), “Aggregation, Specification and Measurement Errors in Product Costing”, The Accounting Review, 69(4), 567-591. 2. Krumwiede K. R. (1998), “The Implementation Stages of Activity Based Costing and the Impact of Contextual and Organizational Factors”, Journal of Management Accounting Research, 10, 239-277. 3. Kennedy T. and J. Affleck-Graves, (2001), “The Impact of Activity Based Costing Techniques on Firm Performance”, Journal of Management Accounting Research, 13, 19-45. 4. Anderson, S.W., Hesford, J. and S.M. Young. (2002) Factors Influencing the Performance of Activity-based 5. Costing Teams: A Field Study of ABC Model Development Time in the Automobile Industry, Accounting, Organizations and Society. 27 (3): 195-211. 6. Jones T. C., and D. Dugdale (2002), “The ABC Bandwagon and the Juggernaut of Modernity”, Accounting, Organizations and Society, 27, 121-163. 7. Babad Y. M. and B. V. Balachandran (1993), “Cost Driver Optimization in Activity-Based Costing”, The Accounting Review, 68(3), 563-575. 8. Homburg C. (2001), “A Note on Optimal Cost Driver Selection in ABC”, Management Accounting Research, 12, 197-205. 9. Shapiro J. F. (1999), “On the Connections Among Activity Based Costing, Mathematical Programming Models for Analyzing Strategic Decisions, and the Resource-Based View of the Firm” , European Journal of Operations Research, 118, 295-314. 10. Shields M. D. (1995), “An Empirical Analysis of Firms Implementation Experiences with Activity Based Costing”, Journal of Management Accounting Research, 7, 1-28.

Topic 3: Revisiting the Principal-Agent Model

The principal-agent paradigm is the most important analytic model in managerial accounting research. We begin with developing our intuition about these models using a highly stylized representation of the principal-agent setting. Then we turn to the seminal papers in the area and work our way through some simple analytic models:

1. Prepare: Sally and Ralph’s Problem.

Discussion Questions:

1. Work through each scenario and explicitly state the assumptions that are being made. What is left unsaid in these models? 2. Describe how each scenario can be mathematically modeled. 3. Find examples from the research literature that fits each of the scenarios. Examine those papers carefully and describe the tradeoffs and assumptions that the authors had to make to fit their mathematical models to the scenario they were trying to replicate. 4. Develop new scenarios to extend the ones that you have been given.

Please write up your analysis of this case and be prepared to discuss in class.

2. Read: Holmstrom (1979)

Discussion Questions:

1. Our aim here is to solve the numerical example Holmstrom discusses on page 79 of his paper. He also provides a solution to the problem. Work through the math and verify that his solution is correct. 2. In other words, derive both the first best and second best solutions for the moral hazard model in which the principal is risk neutral with utility function [pic], where [pic] is wealth. The worker is risk averse, with utility function over wealth given by [pic]and effort aversion measured by [pic] where [pic] is the worker’s effort input (thus, the worker’s total utility is [pic]). Output is exponentially distributed with mean [pic]. Hence, the probability density function of output is [pic] for[pic].

Please write up your analysis of this case and submit it to me in class.

You should also consult Lambert’s 2001 JAE review paper for a survey of the literature specific to management accounting—a copy is attached.

If we have time, I would also like to discuss the Holmstrom-Milgrom (1991) LEN moral hazard model, which is the most commonly used one in the accounting literature today, as well as signaling models. If we do get around to these additional topics I shall distribute some relevant papers at that time.

Readings on the principal-agent model:

1. Holmstrom, B., Moral hazard and Observability, Bell Journal of Economics (1979) 10:74-91.

2. Lambert, R. Agency Research in Managerial Accounting. Journal of Accounting & Economics, Vol. 32, No. 1-3, December 200)

3. Antle, R., and J. S. Demski, The Controllability Principle in Responsibility Accounting, The Accounting Review (1988) 63:700-718.

4. Banker, R., and Datar, S. M., Sensitivity, Precision and Linear Aggregation of Signals for Performance Evaluation, Journal of Accounting Research (1989) 27:21-39.

5. Myerson, R., Incentive Compatibility and the Bargaining Problem, Econometrica (1979) 47:61-78.

6. Antle, R., and G. Eppen, Capital Rationing and Organizational Slack in Capital Budgeting, Management Science (1985) 31:163-74.

7. Holmstrom, B. and P. Milgrom, Multi-task Principal Agent Analysis: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership and Job Design, Journal of Labor Economics and Organization (1991) 6(Spring).

8. Cohen, S. L., S.M. Dater and R. Lambert, Balancing Performance Measures, Journal of Accounting Research (Forthcoming).

9. Demski, J. S. and D. E. M. Sappington, Optimal Incentive Contracts with Multiple Agents, Journal of Economic Theory (1984) 33:152-71.

10. Lambert, R., Executive Effort and the Selection of Risky Projects, Rand Journal of Economics (1986) 17:77-88.

Topic 4: Learning by Refereeing

Refereeing papers is not just an essential task that accounting professors undertake for the good of the entire academic community, it is also a great way to improve ones own knowledge and skills.

Two research papers are provided to you that I acted as a referee on, one on performance evaluation and the other on the role of inventories in production control. Please divide into groups of two and each group write a referee’s report on each paper. Have a report ready to hand in to me in class, as well as preparing a 15 minute presentation on each paper for class. The following website provides some excellent guidance on how to be a good referee:

[1] Our own new hires excepted!

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