We find that firms are less likely to disclose information regarding a negative economic event for which the firm is likely to be blamed than a negative event for which the firm is likely to be perceived as blameless. We identify 383 material negative events (casualty accidents, oil spills, catastrophes, investor class action lawsuits) and find that firms are approximately four times less likely to disclose information following a negative blamed event than a blameless event. Consistent with disclosure of blamed events resulting in greater costs to the firm, we find that firms that disclose after a blamed, but not a blameless, event experience greater reputation and litigation costs than firms that do not disclose. We find that blame attribution provides incremental information over manager career concerns in the disclosure decision. These findings suggest that an event-specific factor—blame attribution—affects firms' propensity to provide disclosures about negative economic events.
Data Availability: The list of 383 material negative economic events is available upon request.
JEL Classifications: K22; M41.