Attention to Dividends, Inattention to Earnings?
62 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2019 Last revised: 26 May 2021
Date Written: May 18, 2020
We examine whether dividends serve as substitutes or complements to accounting information in firm valuation. Consistent with dividends substituting for earnings information, we find that dividend paying firms have 11-15% lower earnings response coefficients (ERCs) than non-payers. We find more substitution when the dividend provides a stronger signal of permanent earnings: when the firm is less likely to cut the dividend, when the firm is likely to fund the dividend out of earnings rather than cash reserves, or when the dividend is larger. We then show dividend payers have lower absolute returns, less trading volume, and fewer analyst forecasts at the earnings announcement (EA), suggesting dividend payers attract less attention to their less informative EAs. Finally, we show that the lower EA attention translates into less earnings management and fewer earnings-related disclosures for dividend payers relative to non-payers. Collectively, this evidence suggests dividends supply information about permanent earnings and, although costly, could be an efficient way for some firms to satisfy investors’ demand for earnings information.
Keywords: dividends, information environment, earnings announcements, earnings management
JEL Classification: G35, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation