CEO Overconfidence and Earnings Management
Journal of Business Finance and Accounting, Forthcoming
Posted: 16 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2014
This study examines the relationship of CEO overconfidence with accrual-based earnings management, real activities-based earnings management, and targeting to meet or just beat analyst forecasts. Following Malmendier and Tate (2005), we measure “overconfidence” based on the CEO’s tendency to hold in-the-money stock options, as rational expected utility maximizers should exercise early to avoid overexposure to company idiosyncratic risks. The results show that before the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), companies of overconfident CEOs were more likely than other CEOs to engage in managing earnings through accelerating the timing of cash flow from operations and achieving analyst forecast benchmarks. After SOX, we find that overconfident CEOs are more likely to have income-increasing discretionary accruals. They remain more likely to engage in real activities management through abnormally high cash flows, and also have abnormally low discretionary expenses. These results are consistent with overconfident CEOs feeling less constrained by SOX, and suggest that this individual characteristic works against regulators’ attempts to constrain earnings management by corporate executives. In contrast, we find that the tendency of overconfident CEOs to manage to targets decreases after SOX, perhaps due to changes in investor behavior in the new regulatory environment (e.g., Koh et al., 2008).
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