Search results

1 – 3 of 3
Article
Publication date: 26 June 2019

Erin L. Hamilton, Rina M. Hirsch, Jason T. Rasso and Uday S. Murthy

The purpose of this paper is to examine how publicly available accounting risk metrics influence the aggressiveness of managers’ discretionary accounting decisions by…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how publicly available accounting risk metrics influence the aggressiveness of managers’ discretionary accounting decisions by making those decisions more transparent to the public.

Design/methodology/approach

The experiment used a 2 × 3 between-participants design, randomly assigning 122 financial reporting managers among conditions in which we manipulated whether the company was currently beating or missing analysts’ consensus earnings forecast and whether an accounting risk metric was indicative of low risk, high risk or a control. Participants chose whether to manage company earnings by deciding whether to report an amount of discretionary accruals that was consistent with the “best estimate” (i.e. no earnings management) or an amount above or below the best estimate.

Findings

Aggressive (income-increasing) earnings management is deterred when managers believe such behavior will cause their firm to be flagged as aggressive (i.e. high risk) by an accounting risk metric. Some managers attempt to “manage” the risk metric into an acceptable range through conservative (income-decreasing) earnings management. These results suggest that by making the aggressiveness of accounting choices more transparent, public risk metrics may reduce one type of earnings management (income-increasing), while simultaneously increasing another (income-decreasing).

Research limitations/implications

The operationalization of the manipulated variables of interest may limit the study’s generalizability.

Practical implications

Users of accounting risk metrics (e.g. investors, auditors, regulators) should be cautious when relying on such risk metrics that may be of limited reliability and usefulness due to managers’ incentives to manipulate their companies’ risk scores by being overly conservative in an effort to prevent being labeled “aggressive”.

Originality/value

By increasing the transparency of the aggressiveness of accounting choices, public risk metrics may reduce one type of earnings management (income-increasing), while simultaneously increasing another (income-decreasing).

Details

Managerial Auditing Journal, vol. 34 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0268-6902

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 19 November 2021

Shuk Ying Ho, Soon-Yeow Phang and Robyn Moroney

This paper aims to investigate the combined effect of two interventions, perspective taking and incentives, on auditors’ professional skepticism (hereafter skepticism…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate the combined effect of two interventions, perspective taking and incentives, on auditors’ professional skepticism (hereafter skepticism) when auditing complex estimates. Specifically, this paper examines the different ways that perspective taking (management versus inspector) and incentives (absent versus reward versus penalty) combine to impact skepticism.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses an experiment with 177 experienced Big 4 auditors. The experiment used a 2 (management vs inspector perspective) × 3 (absent vs reward vs penalty incentives) between-subjects design.

Findings

In the absence of incentives, adopting a management perspective raises situational skepticism when measuring skepticism as appropriateness of management’s fair value estimate while adopting an inspector perspective raises situational skepticism when measuring skepticism as need for more evidence. The authors find some evidence that incentives complement perspective-taking by enhancing those aspects of skepticism for which perspective-taking performs poorly. When assessing management assumptions, auditors adopting an inspector perspective enhance their skepticism more substantially than those adopting a management perspective, and this enhancement is greater with rewards than with penalties. However, this study does not detect an interaction between incentive type and perspective-taking on auditor skepticism in relation to gathering additional evidence.

Originality/value

This paper extends the literature by shifting the focus from a single perspective to a comparison of two perspective-taking approaches and discusses how each of these approaches enhances different aspects of skepticism. This paper also illustrates the importance of the interplay between perspective-taking and incentives in enhancing auditor skepticism.

Details

Managerial Auditing Journal, vol. 37 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0268-6902

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 September 2017

Robert M. Cornell, Anne M. Magro and Rick C. Warne

The purpose of this paper is to examine investors’ propensity to litigate when harmful events occur subsequent to accounting choices. Consistent with Culpable Control…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine investors’ propensity to litigate when harmful events occur subsequent to accounting choices. Consistent with Culpable Control Theory, the authors find that investors are more likely to pursue litigation against management when managers are perceived to have more financial reporting flexibility, such as when they apply imprecise, principles-based accounting guidance. Investors are more likely to pursue litigation when they find management more responsible for harmful events, and they find management more responsible for those events when they perceive management to have more reporting flexibility. To provide additional insight, the authors investigate how the relationship between reporting flexibility and assessed manager responsibility is mediated by investors’ perceptions of management’s self-interested behavior. The authors consider monetary and non-monetary motivations for litigation against management such as recouping financial losses and punishing management. The results suggest that recouping financial losses is not the sole motivation for litigation. The authors provide evidence that punishing management is an important non-monetary component of the litigation decision. The results contribute to the limited literature on investor litigation decisions and inform the debate surrounding the potential effects of more principles-based accounting standards.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors test the hypotheses using an experiment with a 2×1 between-subjects design in which the authors manipulate reporting flexibility at two levels by varying the precision of accounting guidance and measure all other variables of interest. Participants are 82 part-time executive MBA program students at a major public university in the USA. Most participants work full-time (94 percent), own or have owned stocks either directly or through retirement plans (84 percent), indicate general investment knowledge (97 percent), and report high levels of familiarity with corporate financial statements, including balance sheets and income statements (92 percent). Thus, the authors conclude that these executive MBA students are reasonable surrogates for investors.

Findings

Consistent with the predictions, perceived management reporting flexibility affects investors’ propensity to pursue litigation against management. The authors find that the assignment of responsibility to management for harmful events such as investor losses, employee job losses, and economic losses suffered by a community mediates the relationship between reporting flexibility and investors’ intention to litigate. The authors also find that the relationship between reporting flexibility and assignment of responsibility to management for harmful events is not direct but instead works through the effect of reporting flexibility on perceived management self-interested behavior. As predicted, assessed management responsibility for the harmful event is positively related to investors’ propensity to litigate against management, and this relation is only partially mediated by investors’ perceptions that the litigation will be successful. This result suggests that the litigation decision is driven at least in part by corporate governance goals such as the desire for retribution or punishment of management. The second experiment provides additional support for the theory that the desire to punish management is an important component of investors’ litigation decisions.

Research limitations/implications

The research makes important contributions to the literature on investor litigation and to the ongoing debate regarding principles- vs rules-based accounting standards. While some archival research addresses the conditions under which securities litigation occurs, little empirical research has directly addressed the investor decision to litigate. The paper provides additional evidence to address the question of why investors litigate. By doing so, the authors add to the debate on the desirability of shifting from more rules-based to more principles-based accounting standards.

Practical implications

The theory tested in this study could be used to design mechanisms to mitigate the differential propensity for investors to litigate under differing accounting regimes. As standard setters discuss a move to more principles-based standards in the USA, some observers have expressed concern that investor litigation will increase. The theory suggests that if the standard-setting body can control perceptions of management reporting flexibility such that investors believe principles-based standards provide no more flexibility than rules-based standards, they can limit an increase in the amount of investor litigation.

Originality/value

The authors contribute to theory by providing evidence regarding why investors desire to pursue litigation against management. The authors find that the assignment of responsibility to management for harmful events mediates the relationship between reporting flexibility and investors’ intention to litigate. The authors also find that the relationship between reporting flexibility and assignment of responsibility to management for harmful events is not direct but instead works through the effect of reporting flexibility on perceived management self-interested behavior. Furthermore, assessed management responsibility for the harmful event is positively related to investors’ propensity to litigate against management, and this relation is only partially mediated by investors’ perceptions that the litigation will be successful. Those findings provide theoretical contributions to the literature.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 18 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

Keywords

1 – 3 of 3