Earnings Management, Earnings Surprises, and Distressed Firms

John S. Howe, Reza Houston


We examine the propensity of distressed firms to manage earnings and the impact of their earnings management on investor response to earnings. We find that distressed firms manage earnings upward and downward more than other firms. Distressed firms manage earnings upward significantly more than non-distressed firms after negative earnings surprises. Investor response to earnings surprises is smaller in magnitude for distressed firms. Investor response to positive earnings surprises of distressed firms is larger in magnitude than the response to negative earnings surprises. The change in bankruptcy probability after a negative earnings surprise is greater for distressed firms. Distressed firms have less post-announcement earnings drift. The results suggest that earnings management by distressed firms lowers earnings quality and weakens investor response. Our evidence has implications for investors, analysts, and compensation and audit committees.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/afr.v5n1p64


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Accounting and Finance Research
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