Marwa Soliman joined Telfer’s PhD in Management program in 2016 after completing her MSc in accounting at the University of Memphis. She is specializing in accounting under the supervision of Professor Walid Ben Amar. During her studies, she has received the Lilian and Swee Chua Goh Doctoral Scholarship and is among the first recipients of the Daniel Zéghal Doctoral Accounting Research Scholarship. We interviewed her to learn more about her research on narrative disclosures.

Why did you choose to study accounting?

I was not planning to be an accountant, but when I started my freshmen year, I loved the accounting courses and felt that I could excel in this field. I also had the great opportunity to teach accounting right after my college graduation, which made me understand and love accounting much more. Here I am doing my PhD in accounting.

What is your research about and how will it contribute to academic literature?

My research focuses on narrative disclosure. Understandably, the accounting literature heavily focuses on quantitative disclosure; however, narrative disclosure represents, on average, 80% of the annual report and it has significant economic consequences. My research aims to provide a better understanding of the managerial motives behind language choices in the firm’s narrative disclosure. My work has provided evidence that managers intentionally choose to complicate disclosure when their firm is exposed to political risk. I also find that managers who are committed to corporate social responsibility tend to provide more readable narrative disclosure. Currently, I am studying whether a CEO’s characteristics may affect narrative disclosure choices. 

You have presented your research at the annual conferences of two accounting associations; what are the highlights of those presentations?

I recently presented my research at the annual meetings of the American (AAA) and the Canadian Academic (CAAA) Accounting Association. The study investigates the impact of political uncertainty on a firm’s narrative disclosure. My findings suggest that managers use narrative disclosure as an instrument to withhold negative information about potentially poor future performance. Managers’ narrative disclosure choices aim to balance between satisfying the outsiders’ increased demand for information while blurring the unfavorable expected news. Using conference call transcripts, I show that firms exposed to political uncertainty provide less readable disclosure, more ambiguous tone, and rely more on scripted responses to analysts.

How can your research impact Canadian businesses? 

My work highlights the use of narrative disclosure as a managerial tool that could improve or impede informative disclosure to market participants. My research provides insights which the investing community, the firm’s board of directors, and standards-setters can use to better understand to what extent managers may use narrative disclosure as a misleading mechanism in a firm’s disclosure.

By Rania Nasrallah-Massaad