The effect of Sarbanes-Oxley on earnings management behavior
Wilson, George Robert
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This paper investigates the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) on managers’ earnings management choices (i.e., accrual management and real earnings management). Specifically, I investigate whether firms reduce their use of accrual management and increase their use of real earnings management post-SOX. SOX likely increases the cost of engaging in accrual management because of increased legal liability for executives, greater auditor independelce, and increased public awareness of aggressive accounting treatments. An increased cost of aacrual management is likely to lead managers to use other methodq to manage earnings (e.g., real earnings management through sales manipulation, reduction of discretionary expenditures, and overproduction). Consistent with this expectation, I find an increased association between certain types of real earnings management (overproduction and sales manipulation) and the propensity to beat the profit and earnings change benchmarks. Results also indicate that the associations between abnormal accruals and beating the profit and earnings change benchmarks dm not change post-SOX. Contrary to recent evidence suggesting a decline, on average, in accruals management post-Sox, these results suggest there was no significant decline in accruals management for firms with strong incentives to manage earnings (i.e., firms with earnings close to earnings benchmarks).
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