NONDISCLOSURE – A GOOD NEWS SIGNAL?
Kimbrough, Michael D
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I examine the implications of nondisclosure in a setting where there is a credible signal as to the proprietary nature of the undisclosed information. Specifically, I investigate the market and analysts' response to firms’ application to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a confidential treatment order (CTO), which allows firms to redact required disclosures from SEC filings when the redacted information is proprietary. I find that the market and analysts react favorably to the voluntary nondisclosure of proprietary information using the SEC confidential treatment process. Market and analysts reactions are more favorable to the redaction of information that is more likely to have proprietary value, such as information related to research and development. In addition, I show that the redacting firms experience superior accounting performance compared to their peers in the years following the redaction, consistent with the market and analysts’ response to the redaction. However, I find that analysts engage in more intense private information search in response to a CTO redaction. This finding suggests that, although a CTO redaction can signal the nature of undisclosed information, analysts believe that the signal is not fully revealing of the economic magnitude of the undisclosed information. Overall, this study’s findings indicate that a firm's willingness to submit to the CTO approval process serves as a credible signal of the proprietary nature of the withheld information. The results of this study suggest a possible role for a credible signaling channel to facilitate communication between insiders and outsiders regarding the nature of withheld information.