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Earnings Manipulation and Managerial Investment Decisions: Evidence from Sponsored Pension Plans

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  • Daniel Bergstresser
  • Mihir A. Desai
  • Joshua Rauh

Abstract

Managers appear to manipulate firm earnings when they characterize pension assets to capital markets and alter investment decisions to justify, and capitalize on, these manipulations. We construct a measure of the sensitivity of reported earnings to the assumed long-term rate of return on pension assets. Managers are more aggressive with assumed long-term rates of return when their assumptions have a greater impact on reported earnings. Managers also increase assumed rates of return as they prepare to acquire other firms and as they exercise stock options, further confirming the opportunistic nature of these increases. Decisions about assumed rates of return, in turn, influence asset allocation within pension plans. Instrumental variables results suggest that a 25 basis point increase in the assumed rate of return is associated with a 5% increase in equity allocation. Taken together, these results suggest that earnings manipulation arising from managerial motivations influences significant managerial investment decisions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10543.

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Date of creation: Jun 2004
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Publication status: published as Bergstresser, Daniel, Mihir Desai and Joshua Rauh. "Earnings Manipulation, Pension Assumptions, And Managerial Investment Decisions," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2006, v121(1,Feb), 157-195.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10543

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  1. Feldstein, Martin & Seligman, Stephanie, 1981. "Pension Funding, Share Prices, and National Savings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(4), pages 801-24, September.
  2. Paul A. Gompers & Joy L. Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Corporate Governance and Equity Prices," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 02-32, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Konan Chan & Louis K. C. Chan & Narasimhan Jegadeesh & Josef Lakonishok, 2001. "Earnings Quality and Stock Returns," NBER Working Papers 8308, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Mary Margaret Frank, 2002. "The Impact of Taxes on Corporate Defined Benefit Plan Asset Allocation," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(4), pages 1163-1190, 09.
  5. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 2003. "Stock market driven acquisitions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 295-311, December.
  6. Yermack, David, 1997. " Good Timing: CEO Stock Option Awards and Company News Announcements," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 449-76, June.
  7. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1990. "Equilibrium Short Horizons of Investors and Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 148-53, May.
  8. Patrick Bolton & Jose Scheinkman & Wei Xiong, 2003. "Executive Compensation and Short-termist Behavior in Speculative Markets," NBER Working Papers 9722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Stein, Jeremy C, 1988. "Takeover Threats and Managerial Myopia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 61-80, February.
  10. Julia Lynn Coronado & Steven A. Sharpe, 2003. "Did Pension Plan Accounting Contribute to a Stock Market Bubble?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 323-371.
  11. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2001. "Are Ceos Rewarded For Luck? The Ones Without Principals Are," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 901-932, August.
  12. Ivo Welch, 2001. "The Equity Premium Consensus Forecast Revisited," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1325, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  13. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marín, 2005. "Pension plan funding and stock market efficiency," Economics Working Papers 871, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marín, 2003. "Pension Plan Funding and Market Efficiency," Working Papers 31, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  2. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marín, 2005. "Pension plan funding and stock market efficiency," Economics Working Papers 871, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  3. James Poterba & Steven Venti & David A. Wise, 2007. "The Decline of Defined Benefit Retirement Plans and Asset Flows," NBER Working Papers 12834, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Luciano Greco, 2005. "The Optimal Design of Funded Pension Plans: Unbundling Financing and Investment," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0003, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  5. Malcolm Baker & Richard S. Ruback & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2004. "Behavioral Corporate Finance: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 10863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Daniel, Naveen D. & Denis, David J. & Naveen, Lalitha, 2008. "Do firms manage earnings to meet dividend thresholds," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 2-26, March.

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