Christina Zhu

Christina Zhu
  • Assistant Professor of Accounting

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    1320 Steinberg Hall - Dietrich Hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Links: CV


Professor Zhu’s primary research interest is empirical financial accounting. The underlying theme of her work is that costly information acquisition has economic consequences. Her research studies different elements of the feedback loop between investors’ information acquisition costs, stock price efficiency, and managers’ incentives and actions.

Professor Zhu received her Ph.D. in Business Administration (Accounting) from Stanford University and a B.A. in Economics and B.S. in Mathematics from Stanford University. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. degree, she was an investment banking analyst at Perella Weinberg Partners.

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  • Ed deHaan, Yang Song, Chloe Xie, Christina Zhu (Working), Discretionary Disclosure Complexity: New Predictions and Evidence from Index Funds.

    Abstract: Do managers attempt to obfuscate weak performance with complex disclosures? A significant challenge in addressing this question is controlling for non-discretionary disclosure complexity driven by the underlying firm and its economic transactions. We examine the “manager obfuscation” hypothesis in the context of homogenous S&P 500 index funds. This allows us to hold non-discretionary complexity (e.g., investments and risks) largely constant in order to examine how funds’ disclosure choices covary with net performance (as measured by expenses or, equivalently, post-expense returns). We have three findings that are relevant to both the mutual fund and corporate disclosure literatures. First, funds with weaker net performance have more complex disclosures, which is compelling evidence of managerial obfuscation. Second, funds obfuscate weak performance by ex ante creating unnecessarily complex within-fund class structures. This indicates that seemingly non-discretionary firm characteristics may be part of a discretionary obfuscation strategy. Third, we find that funds simultaneously choose both their expenses and complexity, which is a departure from most studies’ assumption that managers choose disclosure complexity to obfuscate non-discretionary poor performance.

  • Christina Zhu (2019), Big Data as a Governance Mechanism, Review of Financial Studies, 32 (5), pp. 2021-2061. 10.1093/rfs/hhy081

    Abstract: This study empirically investigates two effects of alternative data availability: stock price informativeness and its disciplining effect on managers’ actions. Recent computing advancements have enabled technology companies to collect real-time, granular indicators of fundamentals to sell to investment professionals. These data include consumer transactions and satellite images. The introduction of these data increases price informativeness through decreased information acquisition costs, particularly in firms in which sophisticated investors have higher incentives to uncover information. I document two effects on managers. First, managers reduce their opportunistic trading. Second, investment efficiency increases, consistent with price informativeness improving managers’ incentives to invest and divest efficiently.

  • Elizabeth Blankespoor, Ed deHaan, John Wertz, Christina Zhu (2019), Why Do Individual Investors Disregard Accounting Information? The Roles of Information Awareness and Acquisition Costs, Journal of Accounting Research, 57 (1), pp. 53-84. 10.1111/1475-679X.12248

    Abstract: Individual investors often neglect value-relevant accounting information and instead underperform by trading on technical trends. We investigate the frictions that impede individual investors’ use of accounting information, and in particular their costs of monitoring and acquiring accounting disclosures. We do so using an archival setting where individuals are presented with automated media articles that report both current earnings news and past stock returns. Although these investors have earnings information readily available, we find no evidence that their trades incorporate earnings news. Instead we find that they trade in response to the trailing stock returns presented in the articles. Our study raises questions about the likely efficacy of regulations that aim to aid less sophisticated investors by increasing their awareness of, and access to, accounting information.

  • David F. Larcker, Charles McClure, Christina Zhu (Working), Peer Group Choice and Chief Executive Officer Compensation.

    Abstract: We examine the selection of peer groups that boards of directors use when setting the level of CEO compensation. This choice is controversial because it is difficult to ascertain whether peer groups are selected to (i) attract and retain top executive talent or (ii) enable rent extraction by inappropriately increasing CEO compensation. In contrast to prior research, our analysis utilizes the degree to which the observed compensation level of peers in the portfolio is unusual relative to all potential portfolios of peers the board of directors could have reasonably selected. Using a sample of 10,235 firm-year observations from 2008 to 2014, we estimate roughly 33% of board of directors’ choices appear to be associated with rent extraction, whereas the remaining 67% are associated with attracting and retaining high-quality CEO talent. Relative to firms that appear to select peers for aspirational labor market reasons, we find rent extraction firms have more structural governance concerns and realized negative governance outcomes. Over our sample period, we estimate the aggregate excess pay for rent extraction firms is approximately $5.4 billion, or 38% of their total pay.

  • Charles Lee and Christina Zhu (Working), Actively Managed Funds and Earnings News: Evidence from Trade-Level Data.

    Abstract: We use trade-level data to examine the role of actively managed funds (AMFs) in earnings news dissemination. AMFs trade (172 percent) more on earnings announcement (EA) days than on non-EA days. The EA buys made by AMFs are reliably more profitable than their non-EA buys. At the fund level, AMFs with higher trading intensity during EAs are also more profitable than AMFs with lower trading intensity during EAs. Furthermore, we find that increased AMF trading during EAs reduces post earnings announcement drift (PEAD) and leads to faster price adjustment, measured in various ways. Moreover, the directional trades of AMFs generally shift returns from the post-EA period to the EA period. Collectively, our evidence suggests that AMFs are relatively sophisticated processors of earnings news and that their trading during EAs improves the price discovery process.

  • Elizabeth Blankespoor, Ed deHaan, Christina Zhu (2018), Capital Market Effects of Media Synthesis and Dissemination: Evidence from Robo-Journalism, Review of Accounting Studies, 23 (1), pp. 1-36. 10.1007/S11142-017-9422-2

    Abstract: In 2014, the Associated Press (AP) began using algorithms to write articles about firms’ earnings announcements. These Brobo-journalism^ articles synthesize information from firms’ press releases, analyst reports, and stock performance and are widely disseminated by major news outlets a few hours after the earnings release. The articles are available for thousands of firms on a quarterly basis, many of which previously received little or no media attention. We use AP’s staggered implementation of robo-journalism to examine the effects of media synthesis and dissemination, in a setting where the articles are devoid of private information and are largely exogenous to the firm’s earnings news and disclosure choices. We find compelling evidence that automated articles increase firms’trading volume and liquidity. The effects are most likely driven by retail traders.We find no evidence that the articles improve or impede the speed of price discovery. Our study provides novel evidence on the impact of pure synthesis and dissemination of public information in capital markets and initial insights into the implications of automated journalism for market efficiency.


Past Courses


    This course is an introduction to the basic concepts and standards underlying financial accounting systems. Several important concepts will be studied in detail, including: revenue recognition, inventory, long-lived assets, present value, and long term liabilities. The course emphasizes the construction of the basic financial accounting statements - the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement - as well as their interpretation.

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Knowledge @ Wharton


Adjusted Intraperiod Timeliness (Adjusted IPT): a measure of speed of price discovery that penalizes for inefficient overreaction.

Please see Github repository:

The simpler Adjusted IPT file contains a SAS macro to calculate the simpler Adjusted IPT measure, as implemented in “Capital Market Effects of Media Synthesis and Dissemination: Evidence from Robo-Journalism,” assumes that the daily return accumulation is immediately at open, while the more complex Adjusted IPT measure assumes even return accumulation over a given day. The Adjusted IPT file contains a SAS macro to calculate IPT (without the adjustment) and (the more complex) Adjusted IPT. For more details on the two different assumptions, please see the Internet Appendix.


In the News

How Big Data Can Inform Investment Decisions

Investors and managers need more than just reams of information to make good decisions -- they need to know which data are important and how to use them, Wharton research finds.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2019/04/30
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