The Effects of Real Earnings Management on the Firm, its Competitors and Subsequent Reporting Periods

56 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2011

Date Written: January 24, 2011


Prior research hypothesizes managers strategically time retail price promotions to manage reported earnings. However, the reaction of competitors to such real earnings management behavior is less well studied.

Consistent with the prior research, I show evidence that firms use fiscal quarter-end price promotions to accelerate sales inter-temporally in order to meet earnings targets they would otherwise have missed. By analyzing the combination of price promotions and earnings management incentives across the fiscal year, I demonstrate that firms respond more aggressively to the earnings management incentives of their competitors than to their pricing. I further show that price discounts related to earnings management incentives persist in subsequent reporting periods.

These results highlight the complexity of corporate behavior in a real earnings management setting and the need to adequately control for competitor response in related research. Furthermore, they imply that firms with earnings management incentives encourage competitive responses, regardless of whether they actually reduce prices themselves. Subsequent text analysis of earnings related conference calls shows frequent examples of statements consistent with firms attempting to signal stable pricing commitments, possibly to discourage this type of competitive response.

Keywords: Accounting, Marketing, Promotions, Real Earnings Management, Competition

JEL Classification: M31, M41

Suggested Citation

Chapman, Craig J., The Effects of Real Earnings Management on the Firm, its Competitors and Subsequent Reporting Periods (January 24, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Craig J. Chapman (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Jacobs Center 6227
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
8474912662 (Phone)
8474671202 (Fax)


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