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International Differences in Conditional Conservatism - The Role of Unconditional Conservatism and Income Smoothing


  • Joachim Gassen
  • Rolf Uwe Fulbier
  • Thorsten Sellhorn


Prior research documents that conditional conservatism, measured as the asymmetric timeliness of earnings reflecting bad vs. good news, varies with cross-country differences in institutional regimes. In this paper, we examine the determinants of conditional conservatism and related earnings attributes internationally. First, using panel data, we investigate whether competing earnings attributes such as unconditional conservatism and income smoothing affect conditional conservatism and its international differences. We find that these attributes are predictably correlated with conditional conservatism. Second, we address the question whether income smoothing and conditional conservatism are two fundamentally different earnings attributes. We show theoretically that both attributes yield different earnings distributions and that the motivations for producing earnings which possess these attributes differ. To test these predictions empirically, we calculate firm-specific time-series measures of asymmetric timeliness, using a novel trigonometric measure based on the standard Basu (1997)-type regression. Using this cross-sectional data, we test whether conditional conservatism and income smoothing are different and find them to be only weakly correlated for a broad international sample. Also, we demonstrate that income smoothing explains international differences in conditional conservatism. Finally, we estimate simple determinant models of conditional conservatism and income smoothing, showing that both earnings attributes are driven by different explanatory firm-level factors: Conditional conservatism increases with the importance of debt financing, while income smoothing increases with the importance of dividends. Despite some important limitations, we believe our results to be meaningful because they show that cross-country differences in conditional conservatism are influenced by the effects of other accounting properties, predominantly income smoothing. Especially, legal regime appears to drive income smoothing while losing its explanatory power for conditional conservatism when firm-specific factors are controlled for.

Suggested Citation

  • Joachim Gassen & Rolf Uwe Fulbier & Thorsten Sellhorn, 2006. "International Differences in Conditional Conservatism - The Role of Unconditional Conservatism and Income Smoothing," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4), pages 527-564.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:15:y:2006:i:4:p:527-564
    DOI: 10.1080/09638180601102107

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guay, Wayne & Verrecchia, Robert, 2006. "Discussion of an economic framework for conservative accounting and Bushman and Piotroski (2006)," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 149-165, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Gardini & F. Marta L. Di Lascio & Franco Visani, 2017. "How cultural and contextual variables affect the disclosure and transparency of pro-forma indicators," BEMPS - Bozen Economics & Management Paper Series BEMPS41, Faculty of Economics and Management at the Free University of Bozen.
    2. Christian Stadler & Christopher W. Nobes, 2014. "The Influence of Country, Industry, and Topic Factors on IFRS Policy Choice," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 50(4), pages 386-421, December.
    3. Gomez Biscarri, Javier & Lopez Espinosa, German, 2008. "The influence of differences in accounting standards on empirical pricing models: An application to the Fama-French model," Journal of Multinational Financial Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 369-388, October.
    4. repec:eee:joecas:v:11:y:2014:i:c:p:120-137 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Joachim Gassen, 2008. "Are stewardship and valuation usefulness compatible or alternative objectives of financial accounting?," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2008-028, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    6. Elisabete F. Simões Vieira, 2016. "Earnings Management in Public Family Firms under Economic Adversity," Australian Accounting Review, CPA Australia, vol. 26(2), pages 190-207, June.
    7. Nakano, Makoto & Aoki, Yasuharu, 2016. "What Explains Widening Profitability Dispersion Around The World?," Hitotsubashi Journal of commerce and management, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 50(1), pages 23-46, January.
    8. Karampinis, Nikolaos I. & Hevas, Dimosthenis L., 2011. "Mandating IFRS in an Unfavorable Environment: The Greek Experience," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 304-332, September.
    9. Gaganis, Chrysovalantis & Hasan, Iftekhar & Pasiouras, Fotios, 2016. "Regulations, institutions and income smoothing by managing technical reserves: International evidence from the insurance industry," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 59(PA), pages 113-129.
    10. William Rees, 2009. ""Discussion of" Economic Determinants of Conditional Conservatism," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(3-4), pages 373-383.
    11. Fujiyama, Keishi & Kagaya, Tetsuyuki & Suzuki, Tomohiro & Takahashi, Yukari, 2014. "Quarterly Earnings Management Around The World: Loss Avoidance Or Earnings Decrease Avoidance?," Hitotsubashi Journal of commerce and management, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 48(1), pages 1-30, January.
    12. Sebastian Brauer & Carl-Friedrich Leuschner & Frank Westermann, 2011. "Does the Introduction of IFRS Change the Timeliness of Loss Recognition? Evidence from German Firms," Working Papers 87, Institute of Empirical Economic Research, Osnabrueck University.
    13. Fülbier, Rolf Uwe & Klein, Malte, 2013. "Financial accounting and reporting in Germany: A case study on German accounting tradition and experiences with the IFRS adoption," Bayreuth Working Papers on Finance, Accounting and Taxation (FAcT-Papers) 2013-01, University of Bayreuth, Chair of Finance and Banking.
    14. André, Paul & Filip, Andrei & Paugam, Luc, 2013. "Impact of Mandatory IFRS Adoption on Conditional Conservatism in Europe," ESSEC Working Papers WP1311, ESSEC Research Center, ESSEC Business School.
    15. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:9:p:1523-:d:109913 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Rolf Uwe Fülbier & Joerg-Markus Hitz & Thorsten Sellhorn, 2009. "Relevance of Academic Research and Researchers' Role in the IASB's Financial Reporting Standard Setting," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 45(4), pages 455-492.
    17. repec:hal:journl:hal-00862683 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Juan Manuel García Lara & Beatriz García Osma & Fernando Penalva, 2009. "The Economic Determinants of Conditional Conservatism," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(3-4), pages 336-372.
    19. Paul André & Andrei Filip & Luc Paugam, 2015. "The Effect of Mandatory IFRS Adoption on Conditional Conservatism in Europe," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(3-4), pages 482-514, April.
    20. repec:eee:jocaae:v:12:y:2016:i:3:p:191-209 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. repec:hit:hjbswp:175 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. repec:spr:manint:v:53:y:2013:i:4:d:10.1007_s11575-012-0152-1 is not listed on IDEAS

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