Initial losses, corporate governance and earnings management

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Mulcahy, Mark Brendan
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University College Cork
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This thesis examines the relationship between initial loss events and the corporate governance and earnings management behaviour of these firms. This is done using four years of corporate governance information spanning the report of an initial loss for companies listed on the UK Stock Exchange. An industry- and sizematched control sample is used in a difference-in-difference analysis to isolate the impact of the initial loss event during the period. It is reported that, in general, an initial loss motivates an improvement in corporate governance in those loss firms where a relative weakness existed prior to the loss and that these changes mainly occur before the initial loss is announced. Firms with stronger (i.e. better quality) corporate governance have less need to alter it in response to the loss. It is also reported that initial loss firms use positive abnormal accruals in the year before the loss in an attempt to defer/avoid the loss — the weaker corporate governance the more likely is it that loss firms manage earnings in this manner. Abnormal accruals are also found to be predictive of an initial loss and when used as a conditioning variable, the quality of corporate governance is an important mitigating factor in this regard. Once the loss is reported, loss firms unwind these abnormal accruals although no evidence of big-bath behaviour is found. The extent to which these abnormal accruals are subsequently unwound are also found to be a function of both the quality of corporate governance as well as the severity of the initial loss.
Losses , Earnings management , Difference-in-differences
Mulcahy, M.B. 2013. Initial losses, corporate governance and earnings management. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.