Operating Asymmetries and Non-Linear Spline Correction in Discretionary Accrual Models
56 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2018 Last revised: 17 May 2018
Date Written: May 17, 2018
Earnings management research often uses discretionary accruals from Jones-type models. These models assume a linear relation between sales changes and accruals. However, we predict and find that sales changes have a non-linear asymmetric effect on accruals through managers’ operating decisions. By forcing a linear specification on this non-linear effect, the modified Jones model overestimates (underestimates) discretionary accruals for moderate (extreme) sales changes. This non-linear bias causes excessive type-I error in tests of positive (negative) discretionary accruals for subsamples with moderate (extreme) sales growth. The literature often controls for non-linearities using performance matching (Kothari et al. ). However, we show that this approach leads to false inferences due to matching on the dependent variable. We use a flexible non-linear spline specification to control for the non-linear operating effect of sales changes. Our method successfully mitigates the bias, improves type-I errors without sacrificing test power, and changes inferences about major prior findings.
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