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SUGGESTIONS FOR DEGREE PAPER FOR CIVILEKONOM
BY SVEN-OLOF COLLIN
I supervise in several areas, corporate governance, auditing, accounting (except for studies about specific norms) and some finance. I prefer frequent supervision, i.e., normally one personal meeting each twice/third week, and students that invest in their dissertation. If you find any of my suggestions interesting, or if you have other suggestions for a dissertation where you would like to have me as a supervisor, contact me on masterdissertation@yahoo.se and we can make an agreement for a meeting. Below are some suggestions for specific subjects. Corporate governance

Governance strategy
How owners govern their corporation through influencing the governance mechanisms.
Private, public, family, governmental, voluntary firms. Today I am especially interested
in family firms.
What’s in a family?
Governance of family firms, for example, board composition, to manage a professional
CEO, financing of family firms, family firm and auditing, to create a familiar family firm,
to govern the family and so on.
Board of directors
This is a broad area, but one very specific project could be to put a focus on the functions
of the board and try to measure them through, for example audit fees, where for example,
a board focusing on monitoring or conflict resolution will have high audit fees. Board
diversity, or rather, gender diversity is in the debate, with strong political interest
mudding the knowledge. Why do firms have female directors, could be an upsetting
question, but there are indications that due to institutional pressure firms include more
females, with the effect that the board grow in size, i.e., they do not replace a male. And
family firms, basing their recruitment on nepotism, have more females, i.e. due to
nepotism they can override the male dominance. Then, of course, board of directors in
other organizations, such as voluntary organizations, do they have different functions,
and different tasks?
Financial structure
We often predict firm behavior through solidity (financial leverage), but very seldom put
an emphasis on debt and its structure. It could, however, influence the other governance
mechanisms of the firm, for example, a lot of short term debt could be the first sign of
financial stress, which would indicate a more active board and tendencies towards
strategic change. Leverage is also measured in a very primitive way. If I know that I can
easily lend more money or if my suppliers are willing to extend their credit time, I have
higher financial capacity than is reported in the balance sheet. Thus, real leverage instead
of reported leverage would be interesting to explore.
Executive compensation
Executive compensation, influencing the executive, the managers, the employees and the
stakeholder. For example, does high executive compensation influence the organization?
Some claim it increase the efforts by those would-be top manager. Some claim,
especially in a society hailing equality, it will reduce efforts and create a lot of negative
energy. And! Fully explore the tendency to use bonus and options. Why use it, and what
effect do variable compared to non-variable compensation produce?
Green governance
Some firms need to consider environmental consequences of their operations, some firms
want to do it, which makes green management a strategy factor. How do and how can
corporate governance mechanisms influence this strategy factor.

Ethical governance
Some firms need to consider ethical consequences of their operations, some firms want to
do it, which makes ethical management a strategy factor. How do and how can corporate
governance mechanisms influence this strategy factor. Does ethical management, if
existing, influence efficiency, for example, possibility to recruit, to be used in promotion
of products and services, to attract investors and so on. This should not be mixed with
corporate social responsibility, although it can appear to be close. But CSR is about
fulfilling societal expectations (i.e., mostly driven by actual fashion), while ethical
governance could be to fulfil ethical principles, independent of the actual fashion of
society.
Corporations give money and other resources to charity or to operations that are only
slightly related to their business, i.e., it is in the grey area between charity and promotion.
This project would be to study the composition and drivers of corporate charity.
CSR
Corporate social responsibility is an ideology claiming that the corporation has
responsibilities beyond ordinary economic goals. Why do firms assume this ideology and
how do they implement this ideology in their strategy and structure? Since it has been in
place some years now, and since social expectations change, it could be interesting to
explore how CSR has changed and to find explanations why it change. After all, strategy
for a firm has to include the future, so those that can adjust to the future before others
could gain competitive advantage.
Interest of the owner and the manager
In economics we assume utility maximization, which for shareholders tend to be
operationalized as profit maximization, given a specific level of risk. But humans have
other factors of motivation than profit, for example personal development, to do justice in
the world, to develop the corporation and so on. This specific project would study how
people differ in motivation to act, for example, do managers of not-for-profit differ in
motivation from for-profit corporations? What is the driver of a manager of a municipal
operation compared to a manager of a public association, such as a riding school
manager, compared to a manager of an investment fund? This is very basic research,
focusing on the smallest, but most influential element of humans. As I said at my lecture,
we behave in accordance to the interest of the individual, to the interest of the group and
in accordance to principles.
Moral standing
This is a special version of the above project. It has been found that humans differ in their
moral standing, for example, students in economics have higher tendency towards
egoistic moral (i.e. individual utility), while students in art score higher on more altruistic
moral. But there are also indications that students learn moral behavior during the studies.
This project is very close to my research project about duty as a human motivator of
action. It could be developed in different directions, but the main objective would be to
find differences in moral standings among humans and try to explain these differences. If
interested in this, contact me (masterdissertation@yahoo.se) and we will discuss it
further.
Auditing

Audit firm strategy
Today we experience the effects of deregulation of auditing for small firms. What has
happened in the audit firms today, and what has happened in the firms that have had the
opportunity to abolish auditing?
Audit and ownership
Audit is a professional activity and should only vary due to professional demands. But
even within this restriction it could very well be the case that auditing of a firm
dominated by a family differs to audit of a firm with dispersed ownership structure.
Maybe especially the auditing risks could be different. But then, the relationship between
the auditor and the owner differ, which presumably could have some influence on the
auditors work and activities. Thus, the question is if there are any systematic differences
in audit due to ownership structure, especially between firms dominated by families, and
other firms. Last year Karin Berg and Amelie Karlsson did a dissertation exploring the
different functions of a auditor, which I have converted into a paper (I can send you the
draft if you are interested).
Audit quality
How to manage audit quality in 1. the profession, 2. the audit firm. But also, how to
observe audit quality, if it is possible. And if not, what can be done in order to create
impression of audit quality. And finally, the quality of auditing differ, as expressed in the
expectation gap, that the profession things quality is one thing, the partners thing maybe
differently, and the clients, to be sure, think totally different.
Governance of professional firms
Governance of firms that contains a profession, such as audit firms, hospitals and
universities, could be assumed to differ compared to ordinary industrial firms, since these
organizations have to manage individuals with loyalty towards two masters, the
organization and the profession.
Internal auditing
The function of securing the integrity of the information system and the legality of the
operations of the organization (maybe extended to the legitimacy of the operations) could
be termed internal auditing. How do firms organize this function, if ever? We had one
very extensive dissertation last year, by Marie Bertilsson and Elin Petersson, which could
be used as a base for further discussion of subject.
Whistle blowers
Whistle blowers can be disastrous for the firm if they go public, but can be an asset if
they can be used internally. Today we see that organizations misbehave, punishing those
that dare to tell the public about very unethical behavior. The question could be, how to
organize for an efficient use of whistle blowers, i.e., to create incentives for whistle
blowing and to create an organization for managing the process of whistle blowing.
Professionalizing the auditor
When employed at the firm, the firm starts the introduction of the assistant auditor into
the profession. How is this made, by whom, with what instruments? How do firms
evaluate the assistants and promote them? In a way it would be a project about the
production of an auditor!
Going concern warning
Going concern warning issued by the auditor is a very strong and dramatic information
created by the auditor. Several studies could be done with this information in the centre,
for example, what happens to the corporation afterwards, and what are the characteristics
of those that go bankrupt, and those that do not, what actions can one find, for example,
change of auditor? Another is if one can find predictors of going concern warning, i.e., is
it possible to predict the year before that this corporation will receive a warning? And so
on.
Accounting

Accounting choice
Managing the balance sheet and the profit and loss statement through accounting choice.
Since many studies have been made using archival data, it would be informative to have
studies performing case studies, for example, three case studies explaining the three
corporations decision to present their accounting numbers as they do.
Pricing
According to legislation, many governmental operations have to be according to cost
price. One could therefore expect these operations to have advanced systems for
calculations of costs. How do they calculate and what explains their calculus? I have
some indications that the calculus of costs is not advanced, which push the question, how can they claim they are fulfilling the legislation? And even more, who, if any, gain and who losses by the methods used? Family firm financing
Family firms tend to have high levels of equity. But how do they do it? Do they sacrifice
projects and operations because they do not want to lend money, or do they find
innovative financing solutions, such as boots-trapping strategies?
Dividend
Dividend is hard to explain. It could be due to tradition, due to decision. But it could also
be due to ownership interest, for example heavily indebted owners push for dividend,
while other owners have no interest in dividend, i.e., the question is if corporations obey
liquidity preferences of their owners, or if they have a dividend in order to attract owners
with a specific liquidity preference.

Source: http://www.svencollin.se/Sugg2013SOYC.pdf

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