Accounting for long-tail asbestos liabilities: Metaphor and meaning



Publication Details

Moerman, L. C. & van der Laan, S. (2011). Accounting for long-tail asbestos liabilities: Metaphor and meaning. Accounting Forum, 35 (1), 11-18.


This paper examines the different meanings of the ‘long-tail’ metaphor in the corporate environment. Using the case study of James Hardie Industries, this paper analyses the disclosure of corporate long-tail liabilities arising from asbestos operations under different regulatory frameworks. This analysis demonstrates the long-tail metaphor is redefined and reshaped in accounting discourse to fit with extant reporting frameworks rather than representing any legally enforceable claim or future liability. It also demonstrates that, as well as functioning symbolically to enable understanding of complex phenomena, the long-tail metaphor can be harnessed as a tool to objectify financial risks and justify corporate strategy.

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