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Measuring Real Activity Management

54 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2011 Last revised: 6 Aug 2016

Daniel A. Cohen

University of Texas at Dallas - Naveen Jindal School of Management

Shail Pandit

University of Illinois at Chicago

Charles E. Wasley

Simon School, University of Rochester

Tzachi Zach

Ohio State University (OSU) - Fisher College of Business

Date Written: August 5, 2016

Abstract

Much recent research focuses on earnings management via managers' manipulation of real activities (real earnings management, REM). While tests of abnormal REM hinge critically on the measurement of normal real activities, there is no systematic evidence on the properties of commonly used REM measures. We provide such evidence by documenting which REM measures lead to well-specified hypotheses tests. We find that the REM measures used to date in the literature, as well as those we develop to capture variation in expected real activities due to characteristics of firms’ investment opportunity sets, or to control for non-linearity in the relation between performance and expected real activities, are severely mis-specified in that their Type I error rates differ significantly from nominal significance levels. While performance-matched REM measures are not well specified in each and every setting (no REM measure is), the weight of the evidence suggests that, across a wide variety of research settings such as those encountered in accounting, performance-matched REM measures will provide better-specified tests than other REM measures. Such evidence highlights the importance of using performance-matched REM measures, when testing hypotheses related to managers’ incentives to manipulate real activities, to ensure that reliable inferences are drawn.

Keywords: Real activity management, real earnings management, earnings management, real activity models, test specification, meet or beat, earnings benchmarks, model specification

JEL Classification: M41, C12, C15, M42

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Daniel A. and Pandit, Shail and Wasley, Charles E. and Zach, Tzachi, Measuring Real Activity Management (August 5, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1792639 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1792639

Daniel Cohen

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)

Shailendra Pandit

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

601 South Morgan Street
University Hall, Room 2303
Chicago, IL 60607
United States
(312) 355-1331 (Phone)
(312) 996-4520 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://business.uic.edu/faculty/shailendra-shail-pandit

Charles Wasley

Simon School, University of Rochester ( email )

Rochester, NY 14627
United States
585-275-3362 (Phone)
585-442-6323 (Fax)

Tzachi Zach (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Fisher College of Business ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States
614-292-4101 (Phone)

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