Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Earnings management: detection, application and contagion

Nguyen, Nguyet Thi Minh (2017) Earnings management: detection, application and contagion. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:59823)

Language: English
Download this file
[thumbnail of 64PhD thesis - v51 - minor corrections made - no track change.pdf]


The accounting scandals in the 2000s and 2010s have led to a number of large-scale reforms in financial reporting and corporate governance regulations around the world, and still attract a lot of public debates recently. In that context, the demand for further knowledge on earnings management is very topical. What we have known is earnings management does exist. What we have not known, however, seems still overwhelming. We need to know more about issues such as how earnings management could be detected, to what extent earnings management has an impact on investment decisions, what drives earnings management behaviour etc. The accounting research community has responded to such demand by producing a very large, and still growing, volume of publications on the topic during the last few decades. In fact, earnings management has now been one of the largest strands in the mainstream accounting literature.

This thesis aims to make original and important contributions to the literature on earnings management. The main components of the thesis comprise of three empirical chapters which analyse secondary data on the United Kingdom's (the UK hereafter) stock market during the period from 1995 to 2011. The contributions are made on three important and inter-related research strands within the earnings management literature, namely the earnings management detection models, the impact of earnings management on stock market investment, and the spread of earnings management as a corporate decision through board network.

The first empirical chapter constructs a signal-based composite index, namely ESCORE, which captures the context of earnings management. Specifically, ESCORE aggregates fifteen individual signals related to earnings management based on prior relevant literature. Empirical results using UK data shows that when ESCORE is higher, firms do manage earnings with greater magnitude and are more likely to be most aggressive using both accruals and real earnings management. Firms which are investigated for financial-statement-related irregularities are also shown to have significantly higher ESCORE. The composite score can be easily applied in practice as well as replicated in subsequent studies, especially in emerging market where small samples technically constrain the use of other existing earnings management detection models. The approach to construct ESCORE is innovative and it only measures the likelihood rather than the magnitude of earnings management. This aspect of ESCORE is important given the growing criticisms that none of the existing earnings management models could actually measure the magnitude of earnings management.

Using ESCORE as a measure that captures the general context of earnings management, the second empirical chapter asks if investors rationally price the information contained in such context. Empirical evidence shows that firms with low ESCORE outperform those with high ESCORE by 1.37% per month after controlling for risk loadings on the market, size, book-to-market and momentum factors in up to one year after portfolio formation. The relationship between ESCORE and future returns is still significant, in both economic and statistical terms, after controlling for various other known 'market anomalies', including the size, value-glamour, seasoned equity offer, market irrational reaction to financial distress, balance sheet bloat, profitability and discretionary accruals. This finding is in line with the behavioural explanation that investors tend to ignore the observable context of earnings management under the influence of the well-documented base rate fallacy. This is an original piece of knowledge which makes significant and interesting contributions to the literature on market anomalies.

The third and last empirical chapter investigates whether aggressive earnings management practices spread across firms sharing interlocked directors. The evidence shows that if a firm aggressively manages earnings (referred to as a 'contagious firm') via accruals (or production activities and discretionary expenses) manipulation in a year, any firms (referred to as 'exposed firms') which are interlocked with that contagious firm in that year and the two following years are more likely to aggressively manage earnings via accruals (or production activities and discretionary expenses, respectively) manipulation. The contagion effect is found to be more pronounced if the interlocked director is male, older, British, and charged with duties which could influence financial reporting. The contagion effect is robust after controlling for endogeneity issues and common characteristics of the interlocked firms. The evidence presented in this chapter is both original and a significant contribution to our knowledge on the impact of board networks on corporate decisions, a topic which attracts a lot of attention as it fits directly to the process of reforming corporate governance codes to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the boards of directors.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Iqbal, Abdullah
Thesis advisor: Shiwakoti, Radha
Uncontrolled keywords: Earnings management, market anomaly, market efficiency, behavioural financem corporate governance, contagion behaviour.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Kent Business School (do not use)
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2017 18:00 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 22:01 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Nguyen, Nguyet Thi Minh.

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.