Earnings Management upon a Sovereign Downgrade
49 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 9, 2020
We examine the effect of sovereign credit rating downgrades on firms’ earnings management. Using the exogenous variation in credit ratings caused by sovereign rating downgrades from 61 countries, we show that firms reduce discretionary accruals after sovereign downgrades and are likely to experience a reversal of earnings subsequent to the accrual reduction. The reduction in discretionary accruals is more significant in countries with higher disclosure requirements. Interestingly, firms increase the impairments of intangible assets after sovereign downgrades. Our study provides new evidence that managers strategically employ big bath accounting in response to the negative shock on sovereign credit ratings.
Keywords: Sovereign downgrade, Ceiling rule, Credit rating, Earnings management, Big bath accounting
JEL Classification: G34, G24, M41
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