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Earnings management and annual report readability


  • Lo, Kin
  • Ramos, Felipe
  • Rogo, Rafael


We explore how the readability of annual reports varies with earnings management. Using the Fog Index to measure readability (Li, 2008), and focusing on the management discussion and analysis section of the annual report (MD&A), we predict and find that firms most likely to have managed earnings to beat the prior year's earnings have MD&As that are more complex. This disruption of the overall pattern of readability increasing with the level of earnings found in Li (2008) challenges the ontological explanation that good news is inherently easier to communicate, and shows that obfuscation contributes to making disclosures more complex.

Suggested Citation

  • Lo, Kin & Ramos, Felipe & Rogo, Rafael, 2017. "Earnings management and annual report readability," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 1-25.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jaecon:v:63:y:2017:i:1:p:1-25
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jacceco.2016.09.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Annual report readability; Profitability; Earnings management; Computational linguistics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting


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