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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

M. David Piercey

Second Advisor

Yao Yu

Subject Categories



Management is required to disclose any material weaknesses discovered during its evaluation to prepare the company’s financial statements in their internal control over financial reporting (ICFR) report. Across two experiments, I examine the impact of two presentation characteristics of a material weakness made up of multiple, smaller problems— (1) the structure of the presentation of the material weakness, which is whether the material weakness is identified first, followed by descriptions of its individual parts (Top Down structure) or vice versa (Bottom Up structure) and (2) whether or not the parts of the weakness are labeled with ICFR terminology (“significant deficiencies” vs. “issues”). In my first experiment I find evidence that presenting the material weakness last, in comparison to presenting the material weakness first, increases the perceived number of distinct problems that investors perceive in a company’s ICFR, but I ultimately do not find that this structure significantly impacts investors’ perceptions of investment desirability. In my second experiment, I specifically examine how using (versus not using) ICFR terminology to identify the parts of the material weakness impact investors’ perceptions of the severity of the material weakness and how the presentation structure moderates that relationship. I find that using ICFR terminology increases the perceived overall severity of the weakness, although the effect of presentation structure is insignificant. I also find that using ICFR terminology negatively affects the investment desirability of a company through two separate paths—ICFR terminology increases (1) the perceived number of distinct problems in ICFR and (2) the perceived severity of the individual parts of the material weakness. Both of these paths increase the perceived severity of the material weakness, which then decreases investment desirability. Lastly, providing a definition for the ICFR terminology (i.e., an explanation that “significant deficiencies” are relatively less severe deficiencies than material weaknesses) does not impact the effect of ICFR terminology on perceptions of weakness severity.


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