Lancaster University

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UK honorary degree for leading American academic and “international standard setter"

12/10/2008 15:29:16

Professor Mary Barth
Professor Mary Barth

One of the world’s foremost accounting academics has received an honorary degree from Lancaster University. Mary Barth, a Professor of Accounting at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, picked up the commendation for her services to the profession from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) on 10 December.

It is the first time that Professor Barth, once described by a PhD student as “the Michael Jordan of accounting”, has been awarded an honorary degree either side of the Atlantic.

Professor Barth is a member of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), the body which determines the rules which listed companies around the world should use for financial reporting. In the lead up to the Lancaster degree ceremony, Professor Barth spoke of the “very exciting and challenging time for the accounting profession” in the midst of the global financial crisis.

“Globalisation of financial reporting is fast becoming a reality, which means changes for many people, and the current crisis has put financial reporting into the limelight more than ever before,” Professor Barth said.

“I have done considerable research in the area of fair value accounting, which seems to be a focus of the business media in connection with the crisis. My research generally shows that fair values are more relevant to investors than other types of accounting measurements and reliable enough to be associated with their investment decisions.

“I think many have come to understand that blaming the crisis on fair value accounting is much like shooting the messenger. In fact, many have come to understand that greater transparency of information benefits the functioning of the capital markets,” she added.

Prior to joining the faculty at Stanford in 1995, Professor Barth was Associate Professor at Harvard Business School and an audit partner in Arthur Andersen & Co. She holds an AB from Cornell University, an MBA from Boston University and a PhD from Stanford University. Professor Barth, who is also Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, said she was “deeply honoured and absolutely delighted” to receive an honorary degree from Lancaster. “I have been to LUMS many times in the past to present my research and attend conferences, and have interactions with several of their accounting faculty,” she explained. “I am thrilled to be awarded this honorary degree from another leading business school.”

Ken Peasnell, Professor of Accounting and Associate Dean for Research at LUMS, described Professor Barth as one of the world’s principal accounting academics.

”What marks her out as truly exceptional is that while continuing to teach and produce outstanding cutting-edge research investigating the usefulness of financial reporting to investors, she is also a member of the IASB. This is a job done on a full-time basis by most IASB members, involving as it does much international travel, but Professor Barth manages to do this on a ‘part-time’ basis.

“How she manages to combine these very demanding roles – academic researcher, teacher, academic dean and international standard setter – is quite beyond my comprehension. But as a result, Professor Barth has obtained unique insights and contributions that make her one of the most important accountants in the world.”