Limited-Liability Contracts with Earnings Management

37 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2001

See all articles by Joshua Ronen

Joshua Ronen

New York University (NYU) - Department of Accounting

Varda Lewinstein Yaari

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2000


Numerous principal-agent situations of interest to accounting involve limited liability by the agent. We explore this issue when the outcome is mutually observable (MOC) and when it is not and the contract is based instead on the agent's report (NCC). We find that when outcome is not observable, the effect of limited liability depends on the level of limited liability: when low ? no effect; when medium ? the principal fine-tunes payments based on a post-outcome imperfect public signal to compensate for the loss in flexibility caused by the agent's limited liability; when high ? the agent's expected utility exceeds his reservation utility level and the public signal's use is limited. Next, we invoke the revelation principle and examine an incentive-compatible contract (RPC). Interestingly, RPC coincides with MOC when the limited liability is low and resembles NCC when limited liability is either medium or high. In addition, the impact of limited liability on the demand for earnings management is examined.

Keywords: Limited liability; Principal-agent game; Report manipulation; Unobservable-outcome contract; Earnings management

JEL Classification: M41, M43, K13, K22

Suggested Citation

Ronen, Joshua and Yaari, Varda Lewinstein, Limited-Liability Contracts with Earnings Management (November 2000). Available at SSRN: or

Joshua Ronen (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Accounting ( email )

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No contact information is available for Varda Lewinstein Yaari

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