SYNOPSIS: This short essay is based on a presentation at the panel discussion on “Big Unanswered Questions in Accounting” at the 2007 American Accounting Association Annual Meeting. It poses the question: “What is the actual economic role of financial reporting?” and discusses why this question is important, why it is unanswered, and what types of inventive research design are needed to help answer it. Examples are given of the types of questions involved.

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