Do Firms Manage Earnings Through Real Activities Manipulation? Evidence From Australia
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Discretions are given to managers to reflect the financial performance and value of companies in the best and most efficient approach. However, discretions do not always disclose firms’ performance and value accurately, but to create opportunities for managers to distort shareholders’ view of financial performance through managing earnings. Although there are several researches about real activity manipulation, they mainly focus on the U.S. and European firms, in contrast, studies focusing on Australian are inadequate. To fulfil this gap, this dissertation examines whether the real earnings management will be undertaken by Australian firms to beat the earnings benchmarks via testing three major activities: sales manipulation; discretionary expenditures (R&D expenses manipulation particularly); and overproduction. The study sample comprises 3,893 firm-years in Australia for the period from 2010 to 2016. To select suspect firm-years, two benchmarks are used, BENCH 1 is net income divided by total assets and BENCH 2 is changes in net income divided by total assets. The result shows that when selecting suspect firm-years by using BENCH 2, the ABCFO and ABDISEXP of suspect firm-years are lower than those of non-suspect firm-years, and ABPROD of suspect firm-years is higher than that of non-suspect firm-years, which means that Australian firms use real activities manipulation to manage earnings. However, based on the model developed by Roychowdhury (2006), the regression result shows that it is no relationship between real activity manipulation and meeting earnings benchmarks. Although this finding is not consist with prior research, in additional test, the result shows that under BENCH 2, the suspect firm-years have higher earnings quality, which could be a reason to failing find the relationship between real activity manipulation and meeting earnings benchmarks.