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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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Cited by:
  1. Malcolm Baker & Richard S. Ruback & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2004. "Behavioral Corporate Finance: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 10863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2009. "The Decline of Defined Benefit Retirement Plans and Asset Flows," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 333-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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".
  4. 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.
  5. Daniel, Naveen D. & Denis, David J. & Naveen, Lalitha, 2008. "Do firms manage earnings to meet dividend thresholds," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 2-26, March.
  6. Francesco Franzoni & José M. Marín, 2003. "Pension Plan Funding and Market Efficiency," Working Papers 31, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

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