The Contribution of Delayed Gain Recognition to Trends in Conservatism: A Re-Examination Using a New Approach to Measuring Accounting Conservatism
Senyo Y. Tse
Texas A&M University - Lowry Mays College & Graduate School of Business
July 28, 2010
Firms can increase their level of conservatism by recognizing adverse economic events more promptly or by delaying the recognition of positive economic events, that is, by increasing their loss or gains conservatism, respectively. We extend prior research by examining the independent contribution of loss and gains conservatism to overall trends in conservatism. Stakeholders such as shareholders and creditors rely on accounting information for investment, monitoring, and contracting purposes, and have conflicting interests in loss and gains conservatism (Guay 2006, Guay and Verrecchia 2006). Our analysis provides insights on how trends in conservatism serve some stakeholders’ interests while disadvantaging others. We build on Ball and Shivakumar’s (2005) model of the relation between positive versus negative cash flows and contemporaneous accruals and design a new measure of conservatism based on the association between current positive versus negative accruals and future cash flows. Thus, we link managers’ current accruals with the future cash flows that they presumably anticipate when they record the accruals. We interpret the coefficients for positive and negative accruals as indicators of gains and loss conservatism, respectively, and measure overall conservatism as the difference in positive- and negative-accrual coefficients. We find that gains conservatism contributes at least as much as loss conservatism to the overall trend in conservatism. We also find that conservatism in high-tech industries has increased at a faster rate than in other industries, primarily due to increases in gains conservatism. Our findings suggest that trends in conservatism have tilted towards creditors’ interests, increasing shareholders’ reliance on non-earnings information for investment decisions and for contracting.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: conservatism, accruals, accruals quality, asymmetric recognition, conservatism measure, trend in conservatism, cointegration, accounting conservatism, quality of earnings, agency costs, contracting, stock options, compensation, financial reporting, accounting standard-setting
JEL Classification: D82, M21, M41, M44, M52
Date posted: August 13, 2007 ; Last revised: July 29, 2010
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