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Earnings Management and the Revelation Principle


  • Jonathan C. Glover

    () (Graduate School of Industrial Administration (GSIA))

  • Anil Arya

    () (Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business)

  • Shyam NMI Sunder

    () (School of Management)


When the Revelation Principle (RP) holds, managing earnings confers no advantage over revelation. We construct an explanation for earnings management that is based on limitations on owners? ability to make commitments (a violation of the RP?s assumptions). Traditionally, earnings management is seen as sneaky managers pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible owners by manipulating accruals; our limited commitment story suggests that the owners, too, can benefit from earnings management. We categorize a variety of extant explanations of earnings management, along with our own, according to which the assumptions of the RP each explanation violates. Plausibility of multiple simultaneous violations of the assumptions and strategic use of various accounting and real instruments of earnings management, complicate the task of detecting such management in field data.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan C. Glover & Anil Arya & Shyam NMI Sunder, 1999. "Earnings Management and the Revelation Principle," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm120, Yale School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm120

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lim, S.S. & Sunder, S., 1990. "Accuracy Of Linear Valuation Rules In Industry Segmented Environments: Industry Vs. Economy-Weighted Indexes," GSIA Working Papers 89-90-05, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
    2. Lim, S.S. & Sunder, S., 1990. "Econometric Efficiency Of Asset Valuation Rules Under Price Movement And Measurement Errors," GSIA Working Papers 89-90-40, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anil Arya & Shyam Sunder & Jonathan Glover, 2002. "Are Unmanaged Earnings Always Better for Shareholders?," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm295, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Feb 2003.
    2. Mouna Ben rejeb attia & Houda Sassi & Naima Lassoued, 2013. "Signaling over income smoothing and IFRS adoption by banks: a panel data analysis on MENA countries," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 33(3), pages 2340-2356.
    3. Antle, Rick & Bogetoft, Peter & Stark, Andrew W., 2001. "Information systems, incentives and the timing of investments," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4-5), pages 267-294.
    4. Peter O. Christensen & Gerald A. Feltham, 2001. "Efficient Timing of Communication in Multiperiod Agencies," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(2), pages 280-294, February.
    5. Cornett, Marcia Millon & McNutt, Jamie John & Tehranian, Hassan, 2009. "Corporate governance and earnings management at large U.S. bank holding companies," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 412-430, September.
    6. Louis, Henock & Robinson, Dahlia, 2005. "Do managers credibly use accruals to signal private information? Evidence from the pricing of discretionary accruals around stock splits," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 361-380, June.
    7. Bigus, Jochen & Hakenes, Hendrik, 2014. "Does Relationship Lending Require Opaque (and Conservative) Financial Reporting?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9934, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Blanes i Vidal, Jordi & Möller, Marc, 2013. "Decision-making and implementation in teams," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51544, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Thomas Pfeiffer, 2004. "The Value of Information in the Hold-Up Problem," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 5(2), pages 177-203, May.
    10. Guillaume Roger, 2013. "Optimal Contract under Moral Hazard with Soft Information," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 55-80, November.
    11. Bo Sun, 2009. "Asset returns with earnings management," International Finance Discussion Papers 988, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. De Waegenaere, A.M.B. & Wielhouwer, J.L., 2008. "On the Effects of the Degree of Discretion in Reporting Managerial performance," Discussion Paper 2008-21, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    13. Bushman, Robert M. & Smith, Abbie J., 2001. "Financial accounting information and corporate governance," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-3), pages 237-333, December.
    14. Anh Duc Ngo & Oscar Varela, 2012. "Earnings smoothing and the underpricing of seasoned equity offerings," Managerial Finance, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 38(9), pages 833-859, August.
    15. Dye, Ronald A., 2001. "An evaluation of "essays on disclosure" and the disclosure literature in accounting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-3), pages 181-235, December.
    16. Ali, Ashiq & Chen, Tai-Yuan & Radhakrishnan, Suresh, 2007. "Corporate disclosures by family firms," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1-2), pages 238-286, September.
    17. Christensen, Peter O. & Feltham, Gerald A. & Sabac, Florin, 2003. "Dynamic incentives and responsibility accounting: a comment," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 423-436, August.
    18. Shota Otomasa & Atsushi Shiiba & Akinobu Shuto, 2015. "Management Earnings Forecasts as a Performance Target in Executive Compensation Contracts," CARF F-Series CARF-F-368, Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo.
    19. Gao, Pingyang, 2008. "Disclosure Quality, Cost of Capital, and Investors’ Welfare," MPRA Paper 9478, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Jun 2008.
    20. Lambert, Richard A., 2001. "Contracting theory and accounting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-3), pages 3-87, December.
    21. Shyam Sunder, 2011. "Paradox of Writing Clear Rules: Interplay of Financial Reporting Standards and Engineering," The Japanese Accounting Review, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University, vol. 1, pages 119-130, December.
    22. Stephan Leitner, 2014. "A simulation analysis of interactions among intended biases in costing systems and their effects on the accuracy of decision-influencing information," Central European Journal of Operations Research, Springer;Slovak Society for Operations Research;Hungarian Operational Research Society;Czech Society for Operations Research;Österr. Gesellschaft für Operations Research (ÖGOR);Slovenian Society Informatika - Section for Operational Research;Croatian Operational Research Society, vol. 22(1), pages 113-138, March.
    23. Jordi Blanes i Vidal & Marc Möller, 2013. "Decision–Making and Implementation in Teams," CEP Discussion Papers dp1208, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    24. Christensen, Peter O. & Feltham, Gerald A. & Sabac, Florin, 2005. "A contracting perspective on earnings quality," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 265-294, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting


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