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“Looking behind the veil”: Invisible corporate intangibles, stories, structure and the contextual information content of disclosure



Purpose – This paper aims to use a grounded theory approach to reveal that corporate private disclosure content has structure and this is critical in making “invisible” intangibles in corporate value creation visible to capital market participants. Design/methodology/approach – A grounded theory approach is used to develop novel empirical patterns concerning the nature of corporate disclosure content in the form of narrative. This is further developed using literature of value creation and of narrative. Findings – Structure to content is based on common underlying value creation and narrative structures, and the use of similar categories of corporate intangibles in corporate disclosure cases. It is also based on common change or response qualities of the value creation story as well as persistence in telling the core value creation story. The disclosure is a source of information per se and also creates an informed context for capital market participants to interpret the meaning of new events in a more informed way. Research limitations/implications – These insights into the structure of private disclosure content are different to the views of relevant information content implied in public disclosure means such as in financial reports or in the demands of stock exchanges for “material” or price sensitive information. They are also different to conventional academic concepts of (capital market) value relevance. Practical implications – This analysis further develops the grounded theory insights into disclosure content and could help improve new disclosure guidance by regulators. Originality/value – The insights create many new opportunities for developing theory and enhancing public disclosure content. The paper illustrates this potential by exploring new ways of measuring the value relevance of this novel form of contextual information and associated benchmarks. This connects value creation narrative to a conventional value relevance view and could stimulate new types of market event studies.

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