Strategic Accounting Choice Around Firm-Level Labor Negotiations
54 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2010 Last revised: 18 Sep 2014
Date Written: November 23, 2010
Prior literature argues that managers make opportunistic income-decreasing accounting choices to limit the concessions made to trade unions. However, empirical research to date presents mixed evidence, potentially due to the theoretical approach common in prior work that views labor bargaining as a one-shot game in nature. Using a sample of US firms that engage in firm-level labor collective agreement negotiations, we study whether managers act strategically to reduce the transfer of wealth to employees, and its consequences over investment efficiency. We expect that the repeated nature of this negotiation leads to cooperation among the parties and limits the incentives for earnings manipulation, particularly, over long-windows. Our findings suggest that managers take both real and accounting actions, but that these choices are informative rather than opportunistic. In particular, we find evidence consistent with strategic timing of the negotiation and with increased conditional conservatism in the year when the agreement is signed. We do not find evidence of earnings manipulation through discretionary accruals or of decreased investment efficiency around labor bargaining.
Keywords: Accounting choice, earnings quality, strategic timing, labor bargaining, investment efficiency
JEL Classification: M41, J30, J51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation