Faculty & Research

Hans B. Christensen

Associate Professor of Accounting

Phone :
1-773-834-7633
Address :
5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Hans Christensen studies international accounting harmonization and transparency regulation in financial and non-financial markets. He was a researcher on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and at Wales's EU Studies in Financial Reporting. He was also an auditor with the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for four years where he audited financial statements prepared according to US-GAAP, IFRS, and varies national European accounting standards.

"During my work as an auditor, I observed how firms choose to account for similar events in very different ways, particularly when comparing them across countries," he said. "My research now focuses on why firms make these different choices and what the consequences are."

Christensen received a PhD Scholarship from the Institute of State Authorized Public Accountants in Denmark and the 2009 International Accounting Dissertation Award from the American Accounting Association International Accounting Section for his PhD dissertation.

Christensen earned a bachelor's degree with honors in business economics from the Anglia Business School in the United Kingdom in 2000. During his studies, he spent a semester at Marshall University in West Virginia. In 2003, he graduated with a master's degree from Aarhus School of Business at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. In 2008, he earned a PhD in accounting from Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom. Christensen joined the Chicago Booth faculty in 2008 and hopes that his students take away a basic understanding of accounting that allows them to read and understand financial reports.

Outside of academia, Christensen is preparing for the Chicago Marathon and enjoys traveling.

 

2015 - 2016 Course Schedule

Number Name Quarter
30000 Financial Accounting 2015 (Fall)
30600 Workshop in Accounting Research 2015 (Fall)
30600 Workshop in Accounting Research 2016 (Winter)
30600 Workshop in Accounting Research 2016 (Spring)

Research Activities

International accounting harmonization; mandatory IFRS; disclosure behavior.

REVISION: The Effects of Charge-Price Transparency Regulation on Prices in the Healthcare Industry
Date Posted: May  06, 2016
Using micro data on actual healthcare purchases, we provide evidence on the causal effects of charge-price transparency regulation (PTR). We find that PTR causes providers to reduce charges by approximately 6%. However, despite the strong cross-hospital correlation between charge and actual prices, these reductions do not lead to lower actual payments. Cross-sectional variation in the estimated treatment effect suggests that the reputational costs of perceived overcharging rather than increased consumer search explain the reduction in charges. Our results show that reputational concerns affect hospitals’ charge setting strategies and illustrate how the healthcare industry’s complex, heterogeneous pricing structure makes it difficult to increase consumer welfare by increasing transparency.

REVISION: Capital-Market Effects of Securities Regulation: Prior Conditions, Implementation, and Enforcement
Date Posted: Apr  06, 2016
We examine the capital-market effects of changes in securities regulation in the European Union (EU) aimed at reducing market abuse and increasing transparency. To estimate causal effects for the population of EU firms, we exploit that for plausibly exogenous reasons, like national legislative procedures, EU countries adopted these directives at different times. We find significant increases in market liquidity, but the effects are stronger in countries with stricter implementation and traditionally more stringent securities regulation. The findings suggest that countries with initially weaker regulation do not catch up with stronger countries, and that countries diverge more upon harmonizing regulation.

REVISION: Accounting Information in Financial Contracting: The Incomplete Contract Theory Perspective
Date Posted: Mar  01, 2016
This paper reviews theoretical and empirical work on financial contracting that is relevant to accounting researchers. Its primary objective is to discuss how the use of accounting information in contracts enhances contracting efficiency and to suggest avenues for future research. We argue that incomplete contract theory broadens our understanding of both the role accounting information plays in contracting and the mechanisms through which efficiency gains are achieved. By discussing its rich theoretical implications, we expect incomplete contract theory to prove useful in motivating future research and in offering directions to advance our knowledge of how accounting information affects contract efficiency.

REVISION: The Real Effects of Mandatory Dissemination of Non-Financial Information through Financial Reports
Date Posted: Feb  25, 2016
We examine the real effects of mandatory, non-financial disclosures, which require SEC-registered mine owners to disseminate their mine-safety records through their financial reports. These safety records are already publicly available elsewhere, which allows us to examine the incremental effects of disseminating information through financial reports. Comparing mines owned by SEC-registered issuers to those mines that are not, we document that including safety records in financial reports decreases mining-related citations and injuries by 11 and 13 percent, respectively, and reduces labor productivity by approximately 0.9 percent. Additional evidence suggests that increased dissemination, rather than unobservable factors associated with regulatory intervention, drive these effects. We also provide evidence that feedback effects from equity markets are a potential mechanism through which the dissemination of information leads to real effects. Overall, our results illustrate that ...

REVISION: The Effect of Regulatory Harmonization on Cross-Border Labor Migration: Evidence from the Accounting Profession
Date Posted: Jan  22, 2016
The paper examines whether international regulatory harmonization increases cross-border labor migration. To study this question, we analyze European Union (EU) initiatives that harmonized accounting and auditing standards. Regulatory harmonization should reduce economic mobility barriers, essentially making it easier for accounting professionals to move across countries. Our research design compares the cross-border migration of accounting professionals relative to tightly-matched other professionals before and after regulatory harmonization. We find that international labor migration in the accounting profession increases significantly relative to other professions. We provide evidence that this effect is due to harmonization, rather than increases in the demand for accounting services during the implementation of the rule changes. The findings illustrate that diversity in rules constitutes an economic barrier to cross-border labor mobility and, more specifically, that accounting ...

New: The Effect of Regulatory Harmonization on Cross-Border Labor Migration: Evidence from the Accounting Profession
Date Posted: Jan  22, 2016
The paper examines whether international regulatory harmonization increases cross-border labor migration. To study this question, we analyze European Union (EU) initiatives that harmonized accounting and auditing standards. Regulatory harmonization should reduce economic mobility barriers, essentially making it easier for accounting professionals to move across countries. Our research design compares the cross-border migration of accounting professionals relative to tightly-matched other professionals before and after regulatory harmonization. We find that international labor migration in the accounting profession increases significantly relative to other professions. We provide evidence that this effect is due to harmonization, rather than increases in the demand for accounting services during the implementation of the rule changes. The findings illustrate that diversity in rules constitutes an economic barrier to cross-border labor mobility and, more specifically, that accounting ...

REVISION: Incentives or Standards: What Determines Accounting Quality Changes Around IFRS Adoption?
Date Posted: Feb  23, 2015
We examine the impact of managerial financial reporting incentives on accounting quality changes around International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) adoption. A novel feature of our single-country setting based on Germany is that voluntary IFRS adoption was allowed and common before IFRS became mandatory. We exploit the revealed preferences in the choice to (not) adopt IFRS voluntarily to determine whether the management of individual firms had incentives to adopt IFRS. For comparability with previous studies, we assess accounting quality through multiple constructs such as earnings management, timely loss recognition, and value relevance. While most existing literature documents accounting quality improvements following IFRS adoption, we find that improvements are confined to firms with incentives to adopt, that is, voluntary adopters. We also find that firms that resist IFRS adoption have closer connections with banks and inside shareholders, consistent with lower incentives ...

REVISION: Do IFRS Reconciliations Convey Information? The Effect of Debt Contracting
Date Posted: Aug  12, 2014
We examine whether UK GAAP to IFRS earnings reconciliations convey information. As a result of debt contracting, mandatory accounting changes are expected to affect the likelihood of violating existing covenants based on rolling GAAP, leading to a redistribution of wealth between shareholders and lenders. Consistent with this prediction, we find significant market reactions to IFRS reconciliation announcements. These market reactions are more pronounced among firms that face a greater likelihood and costs of covenant violation and early announcements. While the association between later announcements and weaker market reactions is consistent with contractual implications of technical changes to earnings, which investors quickly learn to predict, it is inconsistent with IFRS forcing all firms in the sample to reveal firm-specific information through accruals. Thus, by showing that mandatory IFRS also affects debt contracting, we expand on existing IFRS research that focuses on how ...

REVISION: Debt Contracts and the Need for Mandatory Accounting Changes
Date Posted: Aug  09, 2014
We describe a mechanism through which accounting standard setters can facilitate the contracting process and improve economic resource allocation. Contracts cannot anticipate all future contingencies and, therefore, cannot specify optimal accounting treatments or necessary adjustments to GAAP in many eventualities. This contractual incompleteness opens the scope for opportunistic behavior in unanticipated states, which, being rationally anticipated at contract initiation, distorts the allocation of economic resources. Standard setters can alleviate the friction by acting as arbiters that complete GAAP ex post. We empirically test whether mandatory GAAP changes play an efficiency role by examining the revealed preferences for including vs. excluding mandatory GAAP changes in debt contracts. We find evidence consistent with standard setters playing such a role, but less so over time. Overall, the evidence suggests that there is an economic rationale for standard setting in debt ...

New: Mandatory IFRS Reporting and Changes in Enforcement
Date Posted: Dec  07, 2013
In recent years, reporting under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) became mandatory in many countries. The capital-market effects around this change have been extensively studied, but their sources are not yet well understood. This study aims to distinguish between several potential explanations for the observed capital-market effects. We find that, across all countries, mandatory IFRS reporting had little impact on liquidity. The liquidity effects around IFRS introduction are concentrated in the European Union (EU) and limited to five EU countries that concurrently made substantive changes in reporting enforcement. There is little evidence of liquidity benefits in IFRS countries without substantive enforcement changes even when they have strong legal and regulatory systems. Moreover, we find similar liquidity effects for firms that experience enforcement changes but do not concurrently switch to IFRS. Thus, changes in reporting enforcement or (unobserved) factors ...

REVISION: Mandatory IFRS Reporting and Changes in Enforcement
Date Posted: Nov  04, 2013
In recent years, reporting under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) became mandatory in many countries. The capital-market effects around this change have been extensively studied, but their sources are not yet well understood. This study aims to distinguish between several potential explanations for the observed capital-market effects. We find that, across all countries, mandatory IFRS reporting had little impact on liquidity. The liquidity effects around IFRS introduction are concentrated in the European Union (EU) and limited to five EU countries that concurrently made substantive changes in reporting enforcement. There is little evidence of liquidity benefits in IFRS countries without substantive enforcement changes even when they have strong legal and regulatory systems. Moreover, we find similar liquidity effects for firms that experience enforcement changes but do not concurrently switch to IFRS. Thus, changes in reporting enforcement or (unobserved) factors ...

REVISION: Proper Inferences or a Market for Excuses? The Capital-Market Effects of Mandatory IFRS Adoption
Date Posted: Oct  12, 2013
Barth and Israeli (2013) raise five serious concerns regarding the research design and interpretation of Christensen, Hail, and Leuz (2013). They claim: (i) the evidence stands in stark contrast to Daske, Hail, Leuz, and Verdi (2008) and fails to replicate its prior findings; (ii) the research design using fixed effects leaves out main effects and two-way interactions which likely biases the estimated liquidity effects around IFRS adoption and changes in enforcement; (iii) the vast majority of sample observations do not contribute to the identification which is misleading in terms of the scope and the conclusions that can be drawn from the study; (iv) the timing of IFRS adoption and enforcement changes is measured imprecisely leading to low power tests; and (v) the evidence from Japan is irrelevant to the study. In this note, we show that all five claims are incorrect or misleading. Our discussion also more broadly describes how to properly interpret the fixed-effect specifications ...

REVISION: Does Fair Value Accounting for Non-Financial Assets Pass the Market Test?
Date Posted: Jun  07, 2013
The choice between fair value and historical cost accounting is the subject of long-standing controversy among accounting academics and regulators. Nevertheless, the market-based evidence on this subject is very limited. We study the choice of fair value versus historical cost accounting for non-financial assets in setting where market forces rather than regulators determine the outcome. In general, we find a very limited use of fair value accounting. However, the observed variation is consist

REVISION: Does Fair Value Accounting for Non-Financial Assets Pass the Market Test?
Date Posted: Feb  27, 2013
The choice between fair value and historical cost accounting is the subject of long-standing controversy among accounting academics and regulators. Nevertheless, the market-based evidence on this subject is very limited. We study the choice of fair value versus historical cost accounting for non-financial assets in a setting where market forces rather than regulators determine the outcome. In general, we find a very limited use of fair value accounting. However, the observed variation is consist

REVISION: Why Do Firms Rarely Adopt IFRS Voluntarily? Academics Find Significant Benefits and the Costs Appear
Date Posted: May  28, 2012
Kim and Shi (this issue) document that voluntary IFRS adoption is associated with significant benefits and argue that the effect is causal – a conclusion that is similar to many published papers on IFRS adoption. Yet voluntary IFRS adopters constitute only a small percentage of the global population of firms, which implies that either practitioners behave irrationally or the benefits are incorrectly estimated by academics. In this discussion I argue that the error is on the part of academics, no

REVISION: Capital Versus Performance Covenants in Debt Contracts
Date Posted: Sep  26, 2011
Building on contracting theory, we argue that financial covenants control the conflicts of interest between lenders and borrowers via two different mechanisms. Capital covenants control agency problems by aligning debtholder-shareholder interests. Performance covenants serve as tripwires that limit agency problems via the transfer of control to lenders in states where the value of their claim is at risk. Companies trade off these mechanisms. Capital covenants impose costly restrictions on capit