Samuel Burton Bonsall

Color portrait of Samuel Burton Bonsall

Professor of Accounting, Deloitte & Touche Teaching Excellence Professor

Department Accounting
Office Address 385 Business Building
Phone Number 814-865-4572
Email Address

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Professor Sam Bonsall is the Deloitte & Touche Teaching Excellence Professor and a Professor of Accounting at Penn State University. He previously held positions as an Assistant and Associate Professor of Accounting at the Ohio State University from 2012–2017. Professor Bonsall’s research has focused on the role of credit rating agencies as information intermediaries and how their economic incentives shape their behavior. Professor Bonsall has published his research in The Accounting Review, the Journal of Accounting and Economics, the Journal of Accounting Research, the Review of Accounting Studies, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Management Science. Professor Bonsall teaches advanced financial accounting in Penn State’s Integrated Master of Accounting Program and introductory programming for accounting doctoral students. Prior to graduate school, Professor Bonsall worked as a senior consultant at Bates White LLC in Washington, DC, providing expert witness support in civil litigation matters—including Enron’s bankruptcy. Professor Bonsall graduated with his PhD from Penn State University in 2012 and with his B.S. and M.S. from Penn State University in 2004.


Credit rating agencies
Debt markets
Textual analysis
Business media


Ph D, Accounting, The Pennsylvania State University, 2012

BS, Economics, The Pennsylvania State University, 2004

MS, Accounting, The Pennsylvania State University, 2004

Courses Taught

ACCTG 494H – Acctg Sr Hon Thes (Variable)
Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.ACCTG 494H Research Project (1-6) ACCTG 494H, Senior Honors Thesis in Accounting - Investigation of an original problem area associated with accounting, including literature review. A thesis topic must be approved and a thesis supervisor must be identified before the course may be scheduled. Students sign up for three credits in each of their last two semesters for a total of six credits.

ACCTG 497 – Special Topics (3)
Formal courses given infrequently to explore, in depth, a comparatively narrow subject which may be topical or of special interest.

ACCTG 805 – Applied ACCTG & FIN Analytics (3)
ACCTG 805 impounds knowledge gained from prior coursework and serves as the culminating experience for students enrolled in the Master of Accounting in Accounting Analytics (MAA) program. This course provides an advanced application of the Python programming language to the analysis of large-scale datasets which lie at the intersection of accounting and finance. Students will build upon prior work with the Python programming language and acquire more advanced syntax and building blocks for use in Python. They will also build upon prior work with the Extract-Transform-Load process and learn how to acquire, import, modify, join, summarize, visualize, and analyze datasets in order to better understand the relationships between accounting information and capital markets such as how stock prices respond to earnings information, what financial statement information best predicts accounting irregularities, and how eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) can be harnessed to make more uniform comparisons across companies. Prior work with designing and using relational databases will be enhanced in this course, with a continued emphasis on using data in an ethical manner. The course will be structured around hands-on programming sessions and accompanied by individual assignments to gauge students¿ mastery of the Python language and multiple projects built around using data to gain insights about the real-world relationships between accounting information and capital market outcomes. Specific topics will vary based on current issues and instructor interest.

BA 412 – Honors Int and Res (3)
The integration of the business core into a detailed financial, strategy and market analysis of actual companies selected by student teams. BA 412H Honors Integration and Research (2-3 credits)The purpose of this course is to assist students in developing their Schreyer Honors Thesis. It proceeds by exposing students to research conducted within the various business majors; the research conducted by prior honors students; and having student teams conduct research or contemporary businesses and industries. Typical readings include materials related to evaluating an actual company, prior Schreyer Honors theses, contemporary business articles, prior course projects and supporting academic literature. Written company analyses and oral presentations are made by the teams.

This course examines the accounting for complex business transactions with an emphasis on understanding the "why", rather than exclusively the "how". There is a focus on the economic substance of transactions and developing a deep understanding of the Financial Accounting Standards Board Conceptual Framework. This enables one to analyze the consistency of current financial reporting standards within a conceptual framework while considering alternative accounting treatments that can better reflect the economic substance of transactions. An overview of the conceptual and practical issues surrounding the accounting for investments, fair values, business combinations, consolidation of financial statements, structured transactions, derivatives, and hedging activities and foreign operations will also be covered with the intent for developing an awareness of academic research related to the economics of and accounting for complex business transactions.

ACCTG 590 – Colloquium (1)

ACCTG 494 – Research Project (Variable)
Supervised student activities on research projects identified on an individual or small-group basis.

ACCTG 873 – Adv Acct Rep (3)
Financial disclosure and reporting for complex business enterprises and activities; current issues in financial reporting.

Selected Publications

Bonsall S. B., Holzman E. R., Miller B. P., "Wearing Out the Watchdog: SEC Case Backlog and Investigation Likelihood." THE ACCOUNTING REVIEW, 2023
Bonsall S. B., Gillette J., Pundrich G., So E., "Investor-Paid Credit Ratings and Conflicts of Interest." JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING AND ECONOMICS, 2023
Bonsall S. B., Koharki K., Muller K. A., Sikochi A., "Do Rating Agencies Behave Defensively for Higher Risk Issuers?." MANAGEMENT SCIENCE, 2022
Bonsall S. B., Koharki K. J., "The disciplining effect of credit default swap trading on the quality of credit rating agencies." CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTING RESEARCH, vol. 39, no. 2, 2022, pp. 1297-1333
Ahn M., Bonsall S. B., Bozanic Z., Dou Y., Richardson G., Vyas D., "Have SFAS 166 and SFAS 167 improved the financial reporting for securitizations?." JOURNAL OF BUSINESS FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING, 2020
Bonsall S. B., Green J., Muller K. A., "Market uncertainty and the importance of media coverage at earnings announcements." JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING AND ECONOMICS, 2020
Ahn M., Bonsall S. B., Van Buskirk A., "Do managers withhold bad news from credit rating agencies?." REVIEW OF ACCOUNTING STUDIES, vol. 24, no. 3, 2019, pp. 972–1021
Bonsall S. B., Joseph C., Muller K. A., "State Pension Accounting Estimates and Strong Public Unions." CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTING RESEARCH, vol. 36, no. 3, 2019, pp. 1299–1336
Bonsall S. B., Green J., Muller K. A., "Are Credit Ratings More Rigorous for Widely Covered Firms?." ACCOUNTING REVIEW, vol. 93, no. 6, 2018, pp. 61-94
Bonsall S. B., Leone A. J., Miller B. P., Rennekamp K., "A plain English measure of financial reporting readability." JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING & ECONOMICS, vol. 63, 2017, pp. 329-357
Bonsall S. B., Koharki K., Neamtiu M., "When Do Differences in Credit Rating Methodologies Matter? Evidence from High Information Uncertainty Borrowers." ACCOUNTING REVIEW, vol. 92, no. 4, 2017, pp. 53-79
Bonsall S. B., Miller B. P., "The impact of narrative disclosure readability on bond ratings and the cost of debt." REVIEW OF ACCOUNTING STUDIES, vol. 22, no. 2, 2017, pp. 608-643
Bonsall S. B., Holzman E. R., Miller B. P., "Managerial Ability and Credit Risk Assessment." MANAGEMENT SCIENCE, vol. 63, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1425-1449
Bonsall S. B., Koharki K., Watson L., "Deciphering Tax Avoidance: Evidence from Credit Rating Disagreements." CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTING RESEARCH, vol. 34, no. 2, 2017, pp. 818-848
Bonsall S. B., Koharki K., Neamtiu M., "The Effectiveness of Credit Rating Agency Monitoring: Evidence from Asset Securitizations." ACCOUNTING REVIEW, vol. 90, no. 5, 2015, pp. 1779-1810
Bonsall S. B., "The impact of issuer-pay on corporate bond rating properties: Evidence from Moody's and S&P's initial adoptions." JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING & ECONOMICS, vol. 57, 2014, pp. 89-109
Alissa W., Bonsall S. B., Koharki K., Penn, Michael W., Jr., "Firms' use of accounting discretion to influence their credit ratings." JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING & ECONOMICS, vol. 55, 2013, pp. 129-147
Bonsall S. B., Bozanic Z., Fischer P. E., "What Do Management Earnings Forecasts Convey About the Macroeconomy?." JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTING RESEARCH, vol. 51, no. 2, 2013, pp. 225-266

Research Impact and Media Mentions

"New Research Examines The Consequences Of The SEC's Workload", Forbes, Journal or Magazine,
"Credit ratings agencies like Moody’s decide the US credit rating. Here’s what you need to know about them", CNN Business, Internet,
"The Value of Regional Banks", The New York Times, Newspaper,
"After High-Profile Failures, Can Investors Still Trust Credit Ratings?", Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Internet,
"The Impact of SEC Case Backlog on Investigations", Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog, Internet,
"Does Readability of Financial Disclosures Affect the Bond Market?", Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog, Internet,
"Earnings Bode Ill for Stocks", The Wall Street Journal, Newspaper,


Journal of Financial Reporting, Editor, May 2023 - Present
Contemporary Accounting Research, Editorial Board, April 2020 - Present