IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The association between non-financial performance measures in executive compensation contracts and earnings management


  • Ibrahim, Salma
  • Lloyd, Cynthia


Executive compensation, especially cash bonus compensation, has come under fire by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the US Federal government, and the media for its role in the current economic crisis. Specifically, the SEC has argued that some compensation packages provide incentives for risk-taking that may undermine shareholder value over the long-term. Short-term incentive payments to executives in the form of cash bonuses are mostly contingent on reaching targets of accounting-related measures or financial performance measures (FPMs). However, the incentives from these payments may lead to accrual manipulation and earnings management (EM). Alternative measures are non-financial performance measures (NFPMs). We expect that firms that employ NFPMs in bonus contracts will have a lower prevalence of EM, since these measures tend to focus executives on the long-term. In this paper, we examine the type of performance measures used by firms in the S&P 500 index in their cash bonus compensation. We find that firms that use both FPMs and NFPMs have lower discretionary accruals compared to firms that use only FPMs, consistent with lower income-increasing EM. However, we do not find evidence of a reduction in EM behavior using the incidence of meeting or just beating analyst earnings benchmarks, another common EM proxy. In additional tests on a subset of firms with equity offerings, in which incentives for income-increasing manipulation are likely high, we find that firms with NFPMs have lower discretionary accruals. The implication is that NFPMs can be used in compensation contracts to reduce EM behavior and mitigate erroneous executive compensation. This is important to investors as well as regulators, especially in light of the recent debate on compensation reform.

Suggested Citation

  • Ibrahim, Salma & Lloyd, Cynthia, 2011. "The association between non-financial performance measures in executive compensation contracts and earnings management," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 256-274, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jappol:v:30:y:2011:i:3:p:256-274

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Cathy Beaudoin & Anna Cianci & George Tsakumis, 2015. "The Impact of CFOs’ Incentives and Earnings Management Ethics on their Financial Reporting Decisions: The Mediating Role of Moral Disengagement," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 505-518, May.
    2. repec:eee:intfin:v:51:y:2017:i:c:p:92-105 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Bryan Hong & Zhichuan Li & Dylan Minor, 2016. "Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation for Corporate Social Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 136(1), pages 199-213, June.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jappol:v:30:y:2011:i:3:p:256-274. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.