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A measurement approach to conservatism and earnings management


  • Gao, Pingyang


This paper formalizes a two-step representation of accounting measurement and uses it to formalize a general rationale for conservatism as a measurement principle. A transaction's economic substance manifests itself in characteristics of the transaction, and an accounting rule is a mapping from transaction characteristics to an accounting report. Managers who have stakes in the accounting report are able to influence transaction characteristics. Such earnings management is ex post rational for managers but ex ante inefficient. To safeguard against such ex post opportunism, the optimal ex ante accounting rule is conservative in the sense that it requires more verification of the transaction characteristics favorable to managers. Thus, this rationale for conservatism is as general as the managers' ability and incentive to inflate transaction characteristics. By opening the black box of accounting measurement, the two-step representation also formalizes some classic accounting concepts, such as relevance, reliability, verifiability, verification, and accounting-motivated transactions.

Suggested Citation

  • Gao, Pingyang, 2013. "A measurement approach to conservatism and earnings management," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 251-268.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jaecon:v:55:y:2013:i:2:p:251-268 DOI: 10.1016/j.jacceco.2012.10.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dan Dacian Cuzdriorean, 2013. "Most Recent Findings In Earnings Management Area: Interesting Insights From Traditionally Top 5 Leading Accounting Journals," Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, Faculty of Sciences, "1 Decembrie 1918" University, Alba Iulia, vol. 2(15), pages 1-5.
    2. Richard Barker & Anne McGeachin, 2015. "An Analysis of Concepts and Evidence on the Question of Whether IFRS Should be Conservative," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 51(2), pages 169-207, June.
    3. Chen, Hui & Jorgensen, Bjorn, 2016. "Market exit through divestment: the effect of accounting bias on competition," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64217, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Boahen, Eric & Mamatzakis, Emmanuel, 2016. "Do Religion, Corporate Governance and BIG 4 Audit Interactions Affect Misclassification?," MPRA Paper 76804, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. García Lara, Juan Manuel & García Osma, Beatriz & Penalva, Fernando, 2016. "Accounting conservatism and firm investment efficiency," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 221-238.
    6. Gehan A. Mousa, 2014. "The Association between Accounting Conservatism and Cash Dividends: Evidence from Emerging Markets," International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, vol. 4(4), pages 210-220, October.
    7. Bertomeu, Jeremy & Magee, Robert P., 2015. "Mandatory disclosure and asymmetry in financial reporting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 284-299.
    8. Henry L. Friedman & John S. Hughes & Richard Saouma, 2016. "Implications of biased reporting: conservative and liberal accounting policies in oligopolies," Review of Accounting Studies, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 251-279, March.
    9. repec:eee:finsta:v:32:y:2017:i:c:p:99-114 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Macve Richard, 2013. "“Trading Places”: A UK (and IFRS) Comment," Accounting, Economics, and Law: A Convivium, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 27-40, April.
    11. Joseph B. Omonuk & Jean Baptiste Koffi Dodor, 2016. "Do US electric utilities use industry-specific generally accepted accounting principles to manage earnings?," International Journal of Economics and Accounting, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 7(2), pages 101-115.
    12. Luc Paugam & Olivier Ramond, 2015. "Effect of Impairment-Testing Disclosures on the Cost of Equity Capital," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(5-6), pages 583-618, June.
    13. Birgit Beinsen, 2016. "Conservative accounting as a signaling device in debt covenants," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 801-829, October.
    14. Yuying Xie, 2015. "Confusion over Accounting Conservatism: A Critical Review," Australian Accounting Review, CPA Australia, vol. 25(2), pages 204-216, June.
    15. repec:eee:jaecon:v:63:y:2017:i:2:p:499-512 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Conservatism; Verifiability; Relevance; Reliability; Earnings management; Debt contract;

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting
    • M42 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Auditing
    • M48 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Government Policy and Regulation


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