The Effect of Regulatory Benchmarks on Firm Reporting Behavior
39 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2013 Last revised: 7 Sep 2016
Date Written: February 16, 2015
Accounting researchers question the effect of (“bright-line”) regulations on firms’ financial reporting behavior. To offer evidence on this issue, we take advantage of the regulatory environment in the Chinese setting. In China, regulators have created a bright line at which firms must disclose within 30 days after the fiscal year end expected changes in net income of 50% or greater. Consistent with earnings management to avoid reporting earnings that miss this explicit regulation-generated benchmark, we find far more firms than would be expected just beat the -50% threshold (i.e., there is a distinct “kink” in the earnings change distribution at -50%). As further evidence of earnings management, firms just beating the −50% threshold have higher abnormal accruals and excess non-operating income. The ability of firms to avoid missing the -50% regulatory benchmark, however, is reduced for those with stronger monitoring (foreign investors, exchange regulators, and IFRS). We find no evidence of earnings management at the regulatory threshold of 50% change in net income. Overall, our study sheds light on firms’ opportunistic reporting behavior to suppress bad news related to a regulatory benchmark and on the monitoring mechanisms associated with such behavior.
Keywords: Regulatory benchmark, disclosure regulation, earnings management, monitoring
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