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Adding the Noise: A Theory of Compensation-Driven Earnings Management

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  • Ilan Guttman

    ()

  • Ohad Kadan

    ()

  • Eugene Kandel

    ()

Abstract

Empirical evidence suggests that the distribution of earnings reports is discontinuous. This is puzzling since the distribution of true earnings is likely to be continuous. We present a model that rationalizes this phenomenon. In our model, managers report their earnings to rational investors, who price the stock accordingly. We assume that misreporting is costly, but since managers’ compensation is based on the stock price, they may want to manipulate the reported earnings. The model fits into the general framework of signaling games with a continuum of types. The conventional equilibrium in this game is fully revealing (e.g. Stein 1989), and does not explain the observed discontinuity of earnings reports. We show that a partially pooling equilibrium exists in such games as well, and it generates an endogenous discontinuity in reports. By pooling reports of di?erent types, the informed manager introduces “home-made” noise into his report. The resulting vagueness enables the manager to reduce the manipulation costs. While a priori pooling looks manipulative, it is actually a way to reduce earnings management. The empirical implications of our model relate earnings management and price reaction to price- and earnings-based compensation, growth opportunities of the firm, underlying volatility, and the stringency of accounting rules. We show that this equilibrium arises due to stock-based compensation of the managers, and does not arise when they are paid based on their earnings directly. Finally, we present a general version of this model describing the behavior of biased experts in many real-life situations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem in its series Discussion Paper Series with number dp355.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp355

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  1. Sanford J Grossman & Joseph E Stiglitz, 1997. "On the Impossibility of Informationally Efficient Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1908, David K. Levine.
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  8. V. Crawford & J. Sobel, 2010. "Strategic Information Transmission," Levine's Working Paper Archive 544, David K. Levine.
  9. Krishna, V. & Morgan, J., 1999. "A Model of Expertise," Papers 206, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
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  13. Cho, In-Koo & Kreps, David M, 1987. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(2), pages 179-221, May.
  14. Healy, Paul M., 1985. "The effect of bonus schemes on accounting decisions," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 85-107, April.
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  16. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sobel, Joel, 1987. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 647-61, May.
  17. Bhattacharya, Utpal & Daouk, Hazem & Welker, Michael, 2003. "The World Price of Earnings Opacity," Working Papers 127185, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  18. Leuz, Christian & Nanda, Dhananjay & Wysocki, Peter D., 2003. "Earnings management and investor protection: an international comparison," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 505-527, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Simi Kedia & Thomas Philippon, 2005. "The Economics of Fraudulent Accounting," NBER Working Papers 11573, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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