“Earning Management” refers to those accounting practices that may follow the letter of the rules of fundamental rules of accounting practices but unethically misrepresented to the users of accounting information. For the personal interest managers often try to show outstanding performance of the business and use the strategic way to falsify Income, Assets or Liabilities. Earning Management as generally understood refers to systematic misrepresentation of the true income and assets of corporations or other organizations. “Creative accounting” is at the root of a number of accounting scandals, and many proposals for accounting reform – usually centering on an updated analysis of capital and factors of production that would correctly reflect how value is added.
Quality of accounting information is one of the Fundamental Concepts of Accounting Framework. Where it’s mentioned that, accounting information must be Relevant, Reliable, Comparable, and Consistent & Comparable (Intermediate Accounting by Keiso, Weygandt, Warfield, 12th edition). Unless having these qualities a report cannot be treated as qualified. “Managers that always promise to “make the numbers” will at some point be tempted to make up the numbers”. – Warren Buffet
Definition of Earning Management * Managing earnings is “the process of taking deliberate steps within the constraints of generally accepted accounting principles to bring about a desired level of reported earnings.” (Davidson, Stickney and Weil (1987), cited in Schipper (1989) p. 92) * Managing earnings is “a purposeful intervention in the external financial reporting process, with the intent of obtaining some private gain (as opposed to say, merely facilitating the neutral operation of the process).”… “A minor extension of this definition would encompass “real” earnings management, accomplished by timing investment or financing decisions to alter reported earnings or some subset of it.” (Schipper (1989) p. 92). * “Earnings management occurs when managers use judgment in financial reporting and in structuring transactions to alter financial reports to either mislead some stakeholders about the underlying economic performance of the company or to influence contractual outcomes that depend on reported accounting numbers.” (Healy and Wahlen, 1999, p. 368) Motivators Earning Management
* Meet financial analysts’ estimates of earnings that leads to performance-based compensation * Raise the stock price thereby enhancing the value of stock options * Smooth net income making it appear that the earnings are increasing at a steady rate * Make it look as though future earnings are higher than they really are by establishing “cookie jar reserves” (inflated expenses) in the current year that can be drawn on in future years. (Dr. Steven Mintz, Professor and Area Chair, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting
From this figure we’ve indicated that in the level – 2, where bridge between 1&3 creates should be the concerning point of maintaining the qualities of Accounting Information. Qualities are not only help to detect falsification, but also helps users to take decisions.
Primary Qualities: * Relevance – It helps users to predict the ultimate outcome of past, present, and future events. It also helps users to predict that, how much loss/profit company can made. * Timeline – Specific timeline of accounting period helps users to trace out the business performance over the years. * Reliability – To assure that the information is verifiable, faithful and reasonably free of error and bias.
Secondary Qualities: * Comparability – The reported information should be measured such a way that it can be compared with other company’s reports. * Consistency – Treatment of similar events from period to period must be used by same accounting standards. Standards cannot be changed suddenly, unless it’s proved that new method is better than previous. Perspective of Earning Management
There are two perspectives on earnings management. (1) the Opportunistic perspective, states that managers seek to mislead investors by showing attractive & predetermined accounting information, (2) the Information perspective, first enunciated by Holthausen and Leftwich (1983), under which managerial carefulness is a means for managers to reveal to investors their private expectations about the firm’s future cash flows. (Earnings Management: A Perspective by Messod D. Beneish) Accrual vs. Earning Management
Plenty of research report shows managers try to use Accrual in financial engineering. Accruals are the difference between net income and cash flows. For example, when companies sell items to others on credit during a growth period, the sale creates an accrual of revenue. When companies engage in earnings management, they can increase or decrease income by creating accruals; these are often referred to as non – discretionary (flexible) accruals. Reasons behind using accrual as the engineering tool are – * Accruals are the principle product of GAAP, so it’s easy to do falsification with camouflage. * Accruals resolve some problems related with the effects choosing various accounting methods. * It will be hard for investors to see effect of unobservable components of accrual. Types of earnings management
Theoretically there are two types of earnings management. They are income increasing and income decreasing earnings management (Messod, 2001). a) Income Increasing earnings management: As the name suggests, income increasing earnings management is the process to boost up net income of the company intentionally (to hide the poor performance) so that investors get some wrong signal about the firm’s financial position and performance and make the decision of investing in to company (Messod, 2001). Management are motivated towards increasing earnings management because of getting more debt and equity Financing. b) Income decreasing earnings Management: This process of earnings management is done by decreasing the amount of net earnings. Management is more involved in income decreasing earnings management is to get future compensation like: reducing this month’s earnings by increasing expenses, they ensure the profit from the next month. Also tax avoidance, import tariff relief, union negotiations etc. are other reasons for manager’s motivation towards income decreasing earnings management (Messod, 2001).
In corporate world these are the types of earning management mostly done by the management: a) Revenue and Expense Recognition Under standard accounting rules, a company must record revenue in its books when it earns that revenue — not when it actually receives payment. Similarly, it must record expenses when it incurs them — not when it actually pays money. These rules leave room for companies to manipulate their numbers for earnings management (www.budgeting.thenest.com). For example, say a company signs a deal on December 1 to buy $1 million worth advertising time on TV over the next two months. The company could recognize the entire expense in December, recognize the whole thing in January or split the difference. If it records it all in December, then that year’s profit will be lower by $1 million — but the company will get a “head start” on the next year’s profit by not having any advertising expenses in January. Profits have been shifted from one year to the next with an accounting trick. b) Cookie Jar Reserves
Companies shift earnings around by creating overly large reserve accounts in good years, then drawing them down in bad years. For example, when a company sells a product with a warranty, it must recognize the estimated expense of honoring that warranty at the same time it books the revenue (www.budgeting.thenest.com). A company might conclude that it incurs warranty costs of $10,000 for every $1 million in sales. If it’s having a particularly profitable year, it might decide to take a $30,000 warranty expense per $1 million in sales. That builds up a big warranty reserve now so that the company doesn’t have to record warranty expenses in the future, thus shifting profits from one period to the other. This tactic goes by the name “cookie jar accounting,” because it essentially stashes excess profits away to be used when needed. c) The Big Bath
There will be times when a company simply can’t avoid a bad year. No matter what it does, it’s going to post a loss because of a sour economy, unfavorable market conditions, and legal trouble, whatever. Some companies, though, deliberately make a bad year even worse by shifting all kinds of expenses, one-time charges and write-offs into that year and shifting revenue out of it. This allows it to inflate profits in future years (www.budgeting.thenest.com). The reasoning behind this strategy is that if the company is going to “take a bath,” it might as well take a big bath. The company’s stock price was going to suffer anyway, the thinking goes, and the damage probably won’t be that much worse if the company inflates the loss. Indicators of Earnings Management
We have find out five factors which can be important indicators of earnings management:
a) Political connection and earnings management: Firms with political connection (large number of stockholder, or CEO or board of directors of the company is a parliament member) are more involved in earnings management (Paul, Mara and David, 2010). Mainly the reasons are- political leaders help the particular firm involved in earnings management to avoid penalization by SEC and also political leaders use these companies’ financial performance and position to increase their public image.
b) Internal Audit and earnings management: This one is another major indicator of earnings management. If the quality of internal quality is low there are some possibilities of earnings management. According to the research, if a company is having high quality internal audit, they might be less motivated towards earnings management (Douglas, Jason and David, 2008). Main reasons are: these internal auditors are more professional, responsible towards their job and they barely miss the expert’s expectations.
c) Financial transparency and earnings management: Many studies have shown that financial transparency and earnings management are related. If a particular financial report is more transparent then the manager are less interested toward earnings management (James, Robert and Cheri, 2004) The main reason behind this situation is detail information about the accounts including: change in depreciation methods, details about each and every account will help investors to find out any manipulation done by the manager.