The Readability of Australian Superannuation Disclosures
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Australian superannuation funds are required to produce annual reports providing key information to investors as part of a regime of ongoing disclosure. Each year, the annual report provides context around the financial performance of the investment fund that year. Prior readability studies have found that for firms, unreadable annual reports are associated with poor performance. One explanation put forward is that of managerial obfuscation, where managers manipulate the annual report’s language in an attempt to hide poor performance. In this thesis, I examine the relationship between the readability of Australian superannuation fund annual reports and fund performance for a sample period of 2005 to 2018. Results indicate that the superannuation fund annual report is not associated with fund performance, contrary to firm annual report studies. When paired with the extant literature on other forms of superannuation fund disclosure, it seems there is no evidence of managerial obfuscation in the Australian superannuation market. However, fund characteristics such as small size and large net fund flows are associated with more readable annual reports. Additionally, I find retail superannuation fund annual reports are, on average, harder to read than industry superannuation fund annual reports.