شاهد دیگری دال بر اخلاق درآمد مدیریت : بررسی قضاوت اخلاقی مرتبط با سهامداران و غیر سهامداران
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|23077||2001||18 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Volume 20, Issue 1, Spring 2001, Pages 27–44
The current experimental study examines whether financial statement users' assessments of the ethicalness of earnings management is a function of intended benefit. Evening MBA students, assigned to the role of either a shareholder or non-shareholder, read three hypothetical scenarios involving a manager engaging in earnings management. In response to each scenario, participants judged the ethicalness of the earnings management incident and the likelihood that shareholders will suffer financially from the earnings management incident. The results of the study indicate that the ethicalness of earnings management was assessed less unethically for one of the three scenarios by shareholders when the earnings management was intended for company benefit. The results also show that intent did not influence ethicalness assessments among non-shareholders. These results provide some evidence to support Dye's (1988, pp. 201–207) analytic model and indicate that under certain conditions shareholders and non-shareholders are differentially influenced by the intent of earnings management.
Companies as well as business-unit managers engage in earnings management (see Healy and Wahlen, 1999 for an excellent review), which can lead to a variety of consequences. For example, while earnings management may allow management to achieve an earnings-based bonus, it may also effect management's reputation (Guidry et al., 1999, p. 120), and raise questions about management's ethics (Bruns and Merchant, 1990, p. 24). Indeed, Merchant and Rockness (1994, p. 92) characterize earnings management as “probably the most important ethical issue facing the accounting profession”. Merchant and Rockness (1994, pp. 87–90) provide initial evidence on the ethical assessments of earnings management among various organizational members (e.g., general managers, corporate staff, operating-unit controllers, and internal auditors). In this study I focus on assessments of those outside the organization – users of financial statements. Managers, companies, and policy makers should be interested in the extent to which external parties view earnings management activities as unethical. If earnings management is considered unethical by financial statement users, then managers' and companies' reputations may suffer and companies' credibility in the financial markets may be damaged. Beneish (1997, pp. 288–292) found, for example, that firms actually violating GAAP earn negative returns for two years following the disclosure of the GAAP violation. Similarly, Dechow et al. (1996, pp. 22–25) found that the stock market responds negatively to allegations of earnings management by the financial press or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Alternatively, the cost of capital may be higher among firms perceived as employing a management of questionable ethical standards.1 My paper provides evidence on the ethical judgments of earnings management by external parties. In particular, the paper develops hypotheses based on the idea that individuals reach egocentric or self-interested interpretations of ethics and fairness (Thompson and Loewenstein, 1992, pp. 178–179). In this regard, Thompson and Loewenstein (1992, p. 177) contend that individual's ethically related judgments “will be biased in a manner that favors themselves.” Thus, users of financial statements are expected to assess earnings management as less unethical when they benefit from the earnings management. I rely upon an analytic model developed by Dye (1988, pp. 201–207) to identify a situation in which certain users of financial statements benefit from earnings management. Dye's (1988, pp. 201–207) overlapping generations model contains two classes of financial statement users – shareholders and non-shareholders. The model indicates that shareholders have a demand for earnings management that boosts the share price in the short run (Dye, 1988, pp. 204–205). While managers engage in earnings management to increase the stock price, they also engage in earnings management for personal gain (Healy and Wahlen, 1999, p. 380). I refer to the former as company intent and the latter as individual intent. When management engages in earnings management for company intent as opposed to individual intent, I expect shareholders to assess the earnings management less unethically. Since non-shareholders do not benefit from either kind of earnings management, I do not expect intent to influence their ethicalness assessments.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The purpose of my study was to provide initial evidence on the judgments of users of financial statements regarding earnings management practices. The current study extends work initiated by Bruns and Merchant (1990) and Merchant and Rockness (1994) in several key respects. My study focuses on external users of financial statements, tests the implications of an analytic model developed by Dye (1988, pp. 201–207), and examines two dependent measures. Before discussing the results of my study, four limitations related to the use of an experimental approach should be noted. As part of an experimental approach participants responded to hypothetical scenarios about earnings management activities. This approach has previously been used in studies to measure ethically related judgments (Becker and Fritzsche, 1987; Flory et al., 1992; Singer, 1996; Singer and Singer, 1997; Singer et al., 1998). The strength of this approach is that it allows for greater control and manipulation of variables than provided by non-experimental approaches. A concern, however, with this approach is that it is not possible for the stimulus materials to contain all relevant information in order for the task to be completed in a timely manner. Second, the case unambiguously manipulated earnings management intent. In general, intent is unobservable and must be inferred from behavior and the surrounding context (Kelley, 1973, p. 107). An unambiguous manipulation of intent was needed, however, in order to appropriately test the hypotheses involving intent. Examining ethical judgments when intent is inferred with greater uncertainty represents a topic for further research. A third concern regards assigning participants to the roles of either shareholders or non-shareholders. Potentially, assigning participants to the role of stockholder represents a weak proxy for the incentives faced by stockholders. To the extent that evening MBA students responding to hypothetical cases do not face the same incentives as their assigned group (e.g., shareholders and non-shareholders), the ability to obtain results consistent with expectations should have been diminished. Fourth, approximately one-third of the participants missed one of the manipulation check questions. While it is undesirable for such a high proportion to miss a manipulation check question, it may reflect using evening MBA students as subjects. These students have typically worked a full day prior to class and some may have had trouble concentrating on the instrument, especially given the lack of incentives to attend fully to the instrument. Turning to a discussion of the results, Hypotheses 1a and 1b related to ethicalness judgments. As predicted by Hypothesis 1b, earnings management intent did not influence non-shareholders' ethicalness judgments. However, among shareholders a significant earnings management intent by earnings management activity interaction was unexpectedly found. Further analysis indicated that earnings management intent only influenced the operating gain scenario. In considering these results two points are worth noting. First, the results suggest that the expected relationship between user class and earnings management intent does not hold across all situations. This finding demonstrates the importance of including multiple earnings management scenarios. Had only one scenario been used, it would not have been possible to assess the generalizability of the findings. Second, while the three cases were labeled as operating gain, accounting gain, and accounting loss, this is a simplistic characterization of the cases. Each scenario involves a specific example of an earnings management activity within the class (e.g., operating gain) and a specific method of operationalizing the specific earnings management activity. One of the cases involves someone outside the organization while the other two cases relate only to the organization itself. In addition, both of the accounting scenarios involved recognition issues (e.g., the financial statements recognized (or did not recognize) an economic event that had not (or had) occurred) whereas the operating scenario did not involve a recognition issue. Since the scenarios differ along several dimensions it is not clear whether the differences in results are due to whether the activity was an operating or an accounting event. In speculating about these results, I believe two factors merit attention. First, it may be that recognition/non-recognition represents a boundary condition and that the results only hold for non-recognition issues. For recognition issues the financial statements are apparently misstated, which is not the case for non-recognition issues. Perhaps, even though shareholders may benefit immediately from the manager's act, they may view the act as ethically troubling as non-shareholders because it may be symptomatic of future actions that could harm shareholders. Secondly, it may be that the perceived commonness of the earnings management activity may be an important explanatory factor. That is, shareholders may perceive deferring discretionary expenses as a relatively common and/or expected form of earnings management. To the extent that the activity is viewed as common and/or expected, shareholders may be more tolerant of its occurrence, especially when it occurs for their benefit. Perhaps, shareholders are less tolerant of noncommon and/or unexpected forms of earnings management because it may be a signal or be indicative of managerial behavior that is considered outside of an accepted norm, and thus perceived as dysfunctional. This second view is grounded in attribution theory (Kelley, 1973, pp. 108–113), which identifies consensus information as key to attributional analysis. Information is high in consensus when the manager's current action is not significantly different from the actions of other managers (Kelley, 1973, p. 112). This literature has found that individuals tend to make weaker attributions to and about an actor when consensus information is high (Kelley and Michela, 1980, 463–465). Regardless of what is driving these differences, the results from the current study indicate that there are some boundary conditions that limit the relationship between user class and earnings management intent. Further research is needed to identify the specific nature of these boundary conditions. The pattern of results for Hypotheses 2a and 2b were relatively similar to Hypotheses 1a and 1b. As expected under Hypothesis 2b, intent did not influence non-shareholders' judgments of the likelihood that shareholders will suffer financially. Among shareholders, evidence from tests conducted at the scenario level indicated that intent significantly affected this judgment for the operating gain scenario. This evidence suggests that, under certain circumstances, shareholders appear to realize that they are less likely to suffer financially when the intent of the earnings management activity is to benefit the firm. Recognizing the existence of boundary conditions should not diminish from the equally important finding that for one earnings management activity support was found for an implication from Dye's (1988, pp. 201– 207) analytic model. That is, for the operating gain scenario the ethical judgments and likelihood of financial suffering judgments of shareholders were found to be egocentric. As additional tests are conducted across a range of earnings management activities it may be possible to incorporate boundary conditions into the analytic model. In closing, my study provides initial evidence on the ethicalness judgments of financial statement users regarding earnings management practices. Given the paucity of research on the topic, additional research should be encouraged. In this regard, the results of the current study suggest that, in spite of its limitations, an experimental approach is a viable and appropriate method to examine ethical issues surrounding earnings management. Further use of experimental methods could overcome some concerns, however, by attempting to replicate better the incentives of the groups they ask their participants to represent. Further work also is needed to understand better how differences in approaches, implementations, and expectations to earnings management influence financial statement users' ethical perceptions. Finally, further work could examine whether and why the occurrence of earnings management is associated with actions to buy, sell, or hold equity in the firm. By examining economic outcomes it might be possible to integrate economic and ethical perspectives of earnings management.