Professor Darren Roulstone

Darren Roulstone is the John W. Berry, Sr. Fund for Faculty Excellence Professor of Accounting and, since 2008, he has served as the director of Fisher’s Accounting and Management Information Systems PhD program. He also serves as an associate editor at the journal Management Science and on the editorial boards of the Journal of Accounting Research, the Accounting Review, Contemporary Accounting Research and the Review of Accounting Studies. From 2013 to 2016 he served as president-elect, president and immediate past-president of the Financial Accounting and Reporting Section of the American Accounting Association.

In addition to teaching a doctoral seminar on capital markets research, Dr. Roulstone teaches the core financial reporting class in the MAcc program.

Describe your role as the PhD program director and some of your goals and areas of emphasis for the program.

My primary role is to coordinate the activities of our PhD committee in recruiting and mentoring PhD students. Each year we receive 80 to 100 applications from prospective PhD students. As a committee, we pare those down to approximately 10 applicants who are invited to campus for interviews, and we admit one to three students per year. I tend to have the most contact with applicants, but members of the committee meet with the applicants, recommend offers, and do a lot of the recruiting efforts once we have made offers.

I also serve as an adviser to our first-year PhD students, teach a PhD research seminar each year, and coordinate the committee’s efforts to evaluate the students throughout their program. Finally, I serve on many of the students’ dissertation committees, which are advisory groups that help students write research papers and mentor them as they look for faculty positions at the end of their time at Fisher.

As a PhD committee, our goal is to recruit students who will contribute to our research and teaching while they're in the program and then go on to productive careers at other institutions. We focus on students with strong accounting backgrounds — most have industry and public accounting experience — and work closely with them as they learn how to conduct academic research. One goal during the program is for each student to have at least one paper co-authored with a faculty member.

Our students have done well — over the past few years, five have received the Deloitte Foundation Doctoral Fellowship (only MIT has had more Deloitte Fellowship recipients over the same time period), and they have a strong record of placement at research universities, including our two most recent graduates, who went to Purdue University and the University of Georgia.

What do you enjoy most about your interactions with PhD students?

You see an incredible amount of growth in PhD students over their time in the program. Earning a PhD is different from earning an undergraduate or master’s-level degree; you need to transition from being a student to being a faculty colleague, someone who can add to our knowledge and not just learn what others have done. It’s very rewarding to see students move from sitting passively in classes and research presentations to developing their own research questions, gathering data, getting feedback through their own presentations, and writing papers. The best part is seeing students we’ve worked with for years go out on the job market and get faculty offers from our peer schools — that’s when we know our work and the students’ efforts have paid off!

You were recently appointed the John W. Berry, Sr. Fund for Faculty Excellence Professor of Accounting. What does that mean for your research and your role at Fisher?

An appointment like this is a humbling display of trust in my responsibilities as a faculty member and a program director. It’s also a reminder that we succeed at Fisher because of many devoted alumni and friends of the school who fund our efforts.

My goal is to ensure that this support is used well and enhances the reputation of the college and its graduates.

What are your research interests and some insights you have discovered through your research?

My current research interests are textual analysis of firms’ financial disclosures (specifically, earnings press releases) and how investors acquire accounting information. With colleagues at Fisher and with a former Fisher PhD student, I’ve investigated how firms talk about the future and how firms order the information in their press releases. Regulators have encouraged firms to provide future-oriented information, and we’ve examined how firms do this and how this information affects market participants. We’ve also shown that investors place different weights on information placed in different sections of earnings press releases. Managers could use this to manipulate the impact of good or bad performance disclosed in the press release.

However, we find that how managers order information in their press releases is driven more by the underlying economics of the firm than by managers’ incentives to mislead investors. These findings have relevance to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which issues rules governing firm disclosure; many of these rules emphasize forward-looking disclosures and address how firms may or may not emphasize information in their disclosures (with one form of emphasis being where information is located within a disclosure).

With colleagues at other schools, I’ve looked at how investors acquire financial information using Google search and the SEC’s EDGAR website. Several years ago, I used a Freedom of Information Act request to acquire the server logs of the EDGAR website. These logs allow us to see when investors acquire financial filings like 10-Ks, 8-Ks and Form 4s (insider-trading filings). We’ve documented which filings are most popular with investors and what events, such as earnings announcements, trigger interest in financial filings.

We’ve also shown that investors access financial filings in order to better understand shocks to firm value and performance. Overall, our research has highlighted the value of required financial disclosures to investors and the benefit of having a publicly available repository for them.

What is your life like away from Fisher? Hobbies? Interests?

Family and church are my main activities outside of work. I’m married to a CPA who is a Deloitte alumna, and we have three children. My son and I go on outdoor trips with his scout troop, and he is trying to keep me in shape with running and time at the gym.

Like their mother, my daughters are very musical; they like to prepare daddy-daughter duets (given my general lack of musical skill, I am assigned easy piano parts while the girls play viola and marimba). When I get the opportunity, I window-shop and test-drive sport sedans and coupes. At our church, my wife and I supervise Sunday School classes for children and teenagers. When we get time together, we like to watch HGTV’s House Hunters and dream about downsizing once the kids move out.

Darren Roulstone John W. Berry, Sr. Fund for Faculty Excellence Professor of Accounting
Faculty Profile