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The use of accruals to manage reported earnings: theory and evidence


  • Timothy W. Koch
  • Larry D. Wall


This paper develops a model in which firm managers maximize their own compensation by using accruals to manage reported earnings. The results of the model suggest that the form of the managerial compensation function and managerial time preferences may have an important influence on the relationship between accruals and latent earnings. Among the possible relationships suggested by the model are strategies we call Smooth Income, Occasional Big Bath, Live for Today, and Maximize Variability, each of which suggests a different reporting strategy pursued by managers. Most empirical tests of accruals are inconsistent with this and other theoretical models because they include a single earnings variable in a linear regression analysis. Instead, we document the reporting of accruals by two firms, Sunbeam and Citicorp, that is consistent with the “Live for Today” and “Occasional Big Bath” strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy W. Koch & Larry D. Wall, 2000. "The use of accruals to manage reported earnings: theory and evidence," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2000-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2000-23

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1995. "A Theory of Income and Dividend Smoothing Based on Incumbency Rents," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(1), pages 75-93, February.
    2. repec:bla:joares:v:33:y:1995:i:2:p:263-291 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Dechow, Patricia M. & Sloan, Richard G., 1991. "Executive incentives and the horizon problem : An empirical investigation," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 51-89, March.
    4. Degeorge, Francois & Patel, Jayendu & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1999. "Earnings Management to Exceed Thresholds," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72(1), pages 1-33, January.
    5. Ahmed, Anwer S. & Takeda, Carolyn & Thomas, Shawn, 1999. "Bank loan loss provisions: a reexamination of capital management, earnings management and signaling effects," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-25, November.
    6. Subramanyam, K. R., 1996. "The pricing of discretionary accruals," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-3), pages 249-281, October.
    7. Healy, Paul M., 1985. "The effect of bonus schemes on accounting decisions," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 85-107, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Balboa, Marina & López-Espinosa, Germán & Rubia, Antonio, 2013. "Nonlinear dynamics in discretionary accruals: An analysis of bank loan-loss provisions," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 5186-5207.
    2. Emrah Arbak, 2017. "Identifying the provisioning policies of Belgian banks," Working Paper Research 326, National Bank of Belgium.
    3. Ignacio Ferrero & Alejo José G. Sison, 2012. "A Survey on Virtue in Business and Management (1980-2011)," Faculty Working Papers 06/12, School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Navarra.
    4. Larry D. Wall & Timothy W. Koch, 2000. "Bank loan-loss accounting: a review of theoretical and empirical evidence," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q2, pages 1-20.
    5. Md. Thasinul Abedin, 2016. "The Embellishment of Bottom Line through Hyperbole of Accrued Earnings: A Case of Deliberate Earnings Management of a Non-bank Financial Institution Enlisted in Dhaka Stock Exchange and Chittagong Sto," Business and Management Studies, Redfame publishing, vol. 2(4), pages 42-53, December.
    6. Robert P. Gray & Frank L. Clarke, 2004. "A Methodology for Calculating the Allowance for Loan Losses in Commercial Banks," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 40(3), pages 321-341.
    7. Emrah Arbak, 2017. "Identifying the provisioning policies of Belgian banks," Working Paper Research 326, National Bank of Belgium.
    8. Sarowar Hossain & Gary S. Monroe, 2015. "Chief Financial Officers’ Short- and Long-term Incentive-based Compensation and Earnings Management," Australian Accounting Review, CPA Australia, vol. 25(3), pages 279-291, September.

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