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Adding the Noise: A Theory of Compensation-Driven Earnings Management

  • Ilan Guttman

    ()

  • Ohad Kadan

    ()

  • Eugene Kandel

    ()

Empirical evidence suggests that the distribution of earnings reports is discontinuous. This is puzzling since the distribution of true earnings is likely to be continuous. We present a model that rationalizes this phenomenon. In our model, managers report their earnings to rational investors, who price the stock accordingly. We assume that misreporting is costly, but since managers’ compensation is based on the stock price, they may want to manipulate the reported earnings. The model fits into the general framework of signaling games with a continuum of types. The conventional equilibrium in this game is fully revealing (e.g. Stein 1989), and does not explain the observed discontinuity of earnings reports. We show that a partially pooling equilibrium exists in such games as well, and it generates an endogenous discontinuity in reports. By pooling reports of di?erent types, the informed manager introduces “home-made” noise into his report. The resulting vagueness enables the manager to reduce the manipulation costs. While a priori pooling looks manipulative, it is actually a way to reduce earnings management. The empirical implications of our model relate earnings management and price reaction to price- and earnings-based compensation, growth opportunities of the firm, underlying volatility, and the stringency of accounting rules. We show that this equilibrium arises due to stock-based compensation of the managers, and does not arise when they are paid based on their earnings directly. Finally, we present a general version of this model describing the behavior of biased experts in many real-life situations.

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Paper provided by The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem in its series Discussion Paper Series with number dp355.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp355
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  1. Vijay Krishna & John Morgan, 1999. "A Model of Expertise," Game Theory and Information 9902003, EconWPA.
    • Krishna, V. & Morgan, J., 1999. "A Model of Expertise," Papers 206, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
    • Vijay Krishna & John Morgan, 1999. "A Model of Expertise," Working Papers 154, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
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  14. Shivakumar, Lakshmanan, 2000. "Do firms mislead investors by overstating earnings before seasoned equity offerings?," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 339-371, June.
  15. V. Crawford & J. Sobel, 2010. "Strategic Information Transmission," Levine's Working Paper Archive 544, David K. Levine.
  16. Rangan, Srinivasan, 1998. "Earnings management and the performance of seasoned equity offerings," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 101-122, October.
  17. Leuz, Christian & Nanda, Dhananjay & Wysocki, Peter D., 2003. "Earnings management and investor protection: an international comparison," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 505-527, September.
  18. Bhattacharya, Utpal & Daouk, Hazem & Welker, Michael, 2003. "The World Price of Earnings Opacity," Working Papers 127185, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
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