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Real and Accrual-Based Earnings Management in the Pre- and Post-Sarbanes Oxley Periods

52 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2008  

Daniel A. Cohen

University of Texas at Dallas - Naveen Jindal School of Management

Aiyesha Dey

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Thomas Z. Lys

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

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Date Written: January 2004

Abstract

We document that accrual-based earnings management increased steadily from 1987 untilthe passage of the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002, followed by a significant declineafter the passage of SOX. Conversely, the level of real earnings management activitiesdeclined prior to SOX and increased significantly after the passage of SOX, suggesting that firms switched from accrual-based to real earnings management methods after the passage of SOX. We also find evidence that the accrual-based earnings management activities were particularly high in the period immediately preceding SOX. Consistent with these results, we find that firms that just achieved important earnings benchmarks used less accruals and more real earnings management after SOX when compared to similar firms before SOX. Finally, our analysis provides evidence that the increases in accrual-based earnings management in the period preceding SOX were concurrent withincreases in the fraction of equity based compensation.

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Daniel A. and Dey, Aiyesha and Lys, Thomas Z., Real and Accrual-Based Earnings Management in the Pre- and Post-Sarbanes Oxley Periods (January 2004). NYU Working Paper No. DANIEL A. COHEN-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1280711

Daniel A. Cohen (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Dallas - Naveen Jindal School of Management ( email )

P.O. Box 830688
Richardson, TX 75083-0688
United States
972-883-4772 (Phone)
972-883-6811 (Fax)

Aiyesha Dey

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
6126268626 (Phone)

Thomas Z. Lys

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Department of Accounting & Information Systems
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-2673 (Phone)
847-467-1202 (Fax)

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