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

Jan Barton

Associate Professor of Accounting | Emory University, Goizueta Business School




Jan has been a professor at Emory University since 1998, specializing in financial reporting and business performance analysis. He led the accounting faculty as Area Coordinator during 2020–2022. He was a visiting professor at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland during 2013–2109.

His research delves into cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging to understand how investors process financial information. Earlier, he examined the economic causes and consequences of managers' financial reporting choices. His work appears in journals like The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, and Contemporary Accounting Research, and has garnered attention from mainstream media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Financial Times. He’s served on several committees of the American Accounting Association, on the editorial boards of The Accounting Review and The International Journal of Accounting Research, and as a referee for journals like Journal of Accounting Research and Review of Accounting Studies.

He's given invited lectures at business schools around the world, including Wharton, Cornell, Duke, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, London Business School, London School of Economics, INSEAD, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His paper on earnings management constraints won a 2005 American Accounting Association award and, according to Google Scholar, has been cited over 1,200 times.

Jan has taught courses for undergraduates, MBAs, and executives on financial reporting, business analysis, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic cost management. He also teaches design thinking. He’s coordinated Emory’s PhD program in accounting and led MBA study trips to Brazil, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam. He's received Emory's MBA Teaching Excellence Award three times. Jan’s served on and chaired several committees at Emory overseeing degree programs, academic affairs, and student experience.

He holds a PhD in accounting from the University of Alabama, a master's in taxation from Villanova University’s School of Law, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He also studied design thinking at Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and MIT.

Before academia, he was a senior tax consultant at PwC. He grew up in South America and Europe. He lives in midtown Atlanta with his family.

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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