Call for papers: Why do companies fail?

Oct 03, 2023
Aug 11, 2023

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is inviting scholars to submit proposals for a literature review on the causes of corporate failure, with a specific focus on the role of internal control and corporate governance.

This review aims to explore the internal mechanisms (eg, board, audit committee) and external mechanisms (regulator, market, social actors) that play a role in preventing failures. The Corporate Governance Committee of ICAEW has identified internal control failings as a significant contributor to corporate failures, particularly surprise failures, where risks leading to failure are not appropriately portrayed in financial statements. We are interested in investigating dynamic approaches like out-of-the-box thinking and reverse stress testing to anticipate failure in changing markets.

This call for papers serves a dual objective:

  1. Firstly, it aims to critically examine existing literature, including past research and other relevant “grey literature” such as investigation reports, to identify key research questions and suggest areas for fruitful research. We are interested in research that asks the right questions and suggests modifications to existing practices to align with the culture, ethics, and history of boards in the UK.
  2. Secondly, it aims to generate practical insights and contribute to the development of policies that can improve corporate governance practices, aligning with the UK government’s efforts to ensure the effectiveness of internal controls.

Successful submissions will have the potential to enhance businesses’ internal control mechanisms, contribute to the development of policies and legislation/regulatory instruments, and improve corporate governance practices. They will therefore make recommendations for where further empirical research can contribute to these dual objectives.

The literature review will consider contemporary academic research from high-quality sources, focusing on themes relevant to the question “why do companies fail?” Possible topics include:

  • Causes of company failure and the role of internal controls, and the latter’s oversight by the board and audit committees.
  • Role of corporate governance in enhancing internal control mechanisms.
  • Determinants of internal control quality and their impact on corporate performance and sustainability.
  • Profile and attributes of board members who can improve controls and mitigate the possibility of surprise failures.
  • Studies on the internal flow and transparency of information between the company and its board.
  • Role of ethics and competence in reporting.
  • Analysis of early signals and information that could indicate potential failure.
  • Analysis of legal cases involving internal control and governance deficiencies.
  • Exploration of the role of regulators in failures.
  • Discrepancy between political zero tolerance and regulatory tolerance for failure.
  • Effectiveness of current internal control accountability and reporting requirements, including SOX, and their impact on transparency and accountability.
  • Impact of ownership structure on internal control quality and corporate performance.

When preparing submissions, scholars may consider the European Contact Group’s recent research on the governance framework for corporate reporting, analysing the impact of past governance reforms and assessing potential benefits of adopting similar reforms in the EU. Non-US focused studies are particularly welcome, as the existing literature predominantly focuses on the US. Additionally, research on corporate failures in large unlisted firms would be useful, given the traditional focus on listed firms. A multi-disciplinary approach addressing the complexity of corporate governance is encouraged. Priority will be given to research focusing on internal control and the role of regulators, while cross-cultural perspectives, access to legal cases, and comparisons with other jurisdictions will be considered valuable.

The literature review will be funded by a grant from ICAEW’s charitable trusts of up to £15,000. The grant will be payable to individuals undertaking the research and/or a university, to be detailed on the application.

Submission guidelines

Complete our application form with your details. Prepare to provide responses to cover each of these areas in the application form.

  • A summary of key issues.
  • A compelling case for why you or your team are well suited for this literature review.
  • Demonstrate expertise in the relevant field and showcase experience with similar projects.
  • Describe the team’s structure and define roles and responsibilities of each team member.
  • Outline the comprehensive search process you will undertake for relevant literature, including inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  • Provide details on how studies will be appraised and evaluated.
  • All submissions must be original and unpublished work.
  • Submit a preliminary list of references at the end of the literature review.

Submission process and review

Authors are invited to submit their application form and report to by 11 August 2023. Accepted authors will be informed by 15 September 2023. The applications will be reviewed by an ICAEW panel consisting of academic and non-academic members, overseen by our Research Advisory Board. There is no submission fee.

The author will also be invited as a speaker for ICAEW’s workshop on the topic, with academics and practitioners, scheduled for 3 October 2023. The workshop is currently open for bookings, and you are encouraged to register here.

The final report should not exceed 8,000 words (excluding references) and will be submitted by 31 December 2023. Successful submissions are expected to be suitable to lead on to empirical research, sponsored by ICAEW’s trusts, for publication in the literature and dissemination to ICAEW members.

The author may therefore have further opportunities for policy publications and access to funds for related research projects or potential partnerships with grant support. Accepted papers will be featured on the ICAEW website, providing authors with additional exposure for their work. We would like the selected author to produce a non-academic summary version to support dissemination to a wider audience.

This call for papers provides a unique opportunity to explore the intricate relationship between internal control, corporate governance, and corporate failure. We eagerly await submissions from scholars who are passionate about delving into these themes and generating insights that can enhance corporate governance and risk management practices.

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