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Jan  Barton - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Jan Barton Jan  Barton

Associate Professor of Accounting; Area Coordinator of Accounting | Emory University, Goizueta Business School




Jan has been a professor at Emory since 1998, and Accounting Area coordinator since 2020. He was a visiting professor at Aalto University Executive Education in Finland over 2013–2019. He specializes in financial reporting and business performance analysis.

His research uses cognitive neuroscience to understand how people process and use financial information when making economic decisions. Previously, he researched factors driving firms’ financial reporting choices and the effects of those choices on the quality and credibility of the information reported. His research is published in The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, and Contemporary Accounting Research, and has been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Financial Times. He has served on the editorial boards and as referee for several accounting journals. He has been invited to present his research at business schools around the world, including Wharton, Duke, Michigan, Northwestern, Cornell, London Business School, London School of Economics, INSEAD, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His study on earnings management constraints won the 2005 Best Paper Award from the American Accounting Association’s Financial Reporting Section.

Jan teaches undergraduate and MBA courses in corporate, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit/governmental financial reporting, business performance analysis and valuation, and strategic management accounting. He also teaches courses in design thinking to students in the business school and across the university. He coordinated Emory’s accounting PhD program and taught PhD seminars in capital markets and empirical research methods. He has led study-abroad trips to places like Brazil, India, South Africa, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. He received Emory's MBA Teaching Excellence Award three times and was listed as outstanding faculty member in BusinessWeek’s guide to best business schools. Jan serves on the Goizueta Business School's Education Committee (which oversees the school’s degree programs) and several committees at the university level working on faculty and student experience, academic affairs, and digital scholarship and pedagogy.

Before going into academics, Jan was a senior international tax consultant with PwC. He was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. He is fluent in Spanish, English, German, and French. He lives with his family in midtown Atlanta.

Education (3)

University of Alabama: PhD, Accounting 1998

Villanova University School of Law: MTax, International Taxation 1994

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania: BSEcon, Accounting, Finance, Marketing 1989

Areas of Expertise (6)

Financial Reporting and Disclosure

Financial Statement Analysis

Equity Valuation

Design Thinking

Nonprofit Accounting

Neuroscience of financial decision making

Publications (3)

The neuroscience behind investors’ reaction to corporate earnings news

The Accounting Review

2014 Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we capture neural activity in the ventral striatum—a key area in the human brain's reward processing circuit—of 35 adult investors learning the earnings per share disclosed by 60 publicly traded companies. Before imaging, investors forecasted each company's earnings and took either a long or a short position in its stock. Consistent with prospect theory, we find strong neurobiological evidence of an asymmetric reaction to positive and negative earnings surprises. Moreover, investors' personality traits and investment positions, as well as firms' earnings predictability, modulate the brain's reaction to earnings news. We also find a strong association between the magnitude of the brain's reaction and risk-adjusted stock returns and abnormal share trading around earnings announcements for our sample firms; these findings evince the brain's reaction to earnings news as an alternative, biological measure of the information content of earnings.

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Which performance measures do investors around the world value the most—and why?

The Accounting Review

2010 We examine the value relevance of a comprehensive set of summary performance measures including sales, earnings, comprehensive income, and operating cash flows. We find that, while value relevance peaks for measures “above the line,” no single measure dominates around the world. Instead, a measure is more relevant when it captures, directly and quickly, information about firms’ cash flows. Specifically, for each performance measure by country, we estimate eight attributes commonly used to assess earnings quality. We find these attributes highly correlated—most of their variance is explained by only two principal factors. A factor capturing articulation with cash flows is positively associated with a measure’s value relevance; a factor reflecting the measure’s persistence, predictability, smoothness, and conservatism is negatively associated. Our results suggest that, when it comes to equity valuation, accounting researchers and standard-setters should focus not on what performance measure is “best” at a given point in time, but on the underlying attributes that investors find most relevant.

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Who cares about auditor reputation?

Contemporary Accounting Research

2003 I provide evidence on the demand for auditor reputation by examining the defections of Arthur Andersen LLP's clients following the accounting scandals and criminal conviction marring the auditor's reputation in 2002. About 95 percent of clients in my sample did not switch auditors until after Andersen was indicted for criminal misconduct regarding its failed audit of Enron Corp. I test whether the timing of client defections and the choice of a new auditor are consistent with managers' incentives to mitigate potentially costly information and agency problems. I find that clients defected sooner, mostly to another Big 5 auditor, if they were more visible in the capital markets; such clients attracted more analysts and press coverage, had larger institutional ownership and share turnover, and raised more cash in recent security issues. However, my proxies for agency conflicts - managerial ownership and financial leverage - are not associated with the timing of defections or the choice of new auditor. Overall, my study suggests that firms more visible in the capital markets tend to be more concerned about engaging highly reputable auditors, consistent with such firms trying to build and preserve their own reputations for credible financial reporting.

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In the News (1)

Profits Came in Lower Than Expected? Hip, Hip, Hooray!

The Wall Street Journal  online


New research by a team of neuroscientists at Emory University shows that business-school students investing in stocks who were confronted with negative earnings surprises experienced a steep drop in activity in the ventral striatum, an area of the brain that responds to rewards. (The investors learned about the stocks while their brains were monitored inside a giant magnetic scanner.) The researchers found that what determines how an investor's brain responds to an earnings report isn't the size of the company's gain or loss, but whether the gain or loss is better or worse than expected. That likely occurs regardless of whether the expectation is set by the Wall Street consensus or by an investor's own worry number, says Jan Barton of Emory, one of the study's authors.

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