Earnings-Based Bonus Plans and Earnings Management by Business Unit Managers
Posted: 31 Mar 1997
Date Written: January 1997
This study tests the Fixed-Target Hypothesis (Healy, 1985), wherein it is hypothesized that managers make discretionary accrual decisions to maximize their short-term bonuses. We conduct our analysis using business unit-level rather than firm-level data. In our setting, business unit manager incentive compensation is based solely on business unit earnings. Therefore, the potentially confounding effects of long-term performance and stock-based incentive compensation present in previous research are absent. Using multiple measures of discretionary accruals, we find evidence consistent with Healy (1985) in that managers with bonus- related incentives to make income-increasing discretionary accruals do so relative to managers with incentives to use accrual discretion to decrease earnings. To the extent that external financial reporting represents an aggregation of business unit financial reports, our results highlight the importance of internal contracting as a determinant of external reporting, as conjectured by Watts and Zimmerman (1990).
JEL Classification: M41, M43, M46, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation