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Published in: Journal of Business Ethics 1/2022

09-01-2021 | Original Paper

Welcome to the Gray Zone: Shades of Honesty and Earnings Management

Authors: Pascale Lapointe-Antunes, Kevin Veenstra, Kareen Brown, Heather Li

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 1/2022

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Abstract

We examine the influence of face-based judgments of CFO and CEO honesty on earnings management for the largest publicly traded companies in America. After controlling for incentives and opportunities to manage earnings, CFOs perceived to be less honest engage in higher levels of accruals earnings management and real earnings management. The beneficial impact of perceived honesty on earnings quality is most pronounced when both the CFO and the CEO are perceived to be more honest. Findings are consistent with our conjecture that both the CFO and CEO contribute to a firm’s financial reporting environment.
Appendix
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Footnotes
1
While early concepts of physiognomy were misguided, recent studies support the assertion that facial characteristics influence personality perception and may be reliable indicators of behavior (Re and Rule 2015).
 
2
Subclinical narcissism has all the facets of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a clinical psychopathology, but is less extreme. It is not immediately apparent and is often difficult to diagnose.
 
3
Honesty-Humility shows an upward trend of about one standard deviation unit between the ages of 18 and 60. However, the rank order of this personality trait is constant. Developmental changes are likely to be the main explanation for this age trend (Ashton and Lee 2016).
 
4
The form is available at http://​hexaco.​org/​hexaco-inventory (Lee and Ashton 2018).
 
5
We only include a rater’s scores in our sample if their ratings are of consistent quality, i.e., if both of the following criteria for a given rater are met: (1) the standard deviation of mean scores is at least 0.3; and (2) the average standard deviation of responses to the 10 honesty questions is less than 1.1.
 
6
Accrual-based earnings management measures are noisy proxies due to construct validity concerns (e.g., DeFond 2010; Jackson 2018). However, prior literature and industry experts agree that accruals, real activities, and classification shifting are the three ways that firms routinely engage in earnings management.
 
7
There are other discretionary accrual models, including the modified Jones (1991) model and the McNichols (2002) model. Given the significant overlap of explanatory variables across the discretionary accrual models, we select two models which are consistently used in the literature and collectively incorporate most of the explanatory variables.
 
8
The revised “classification shifting” score is strictly increasing in both UCE and SPI: firms with a high (low) UCE and a high (low) SPI receive a high (low) score.
 
9
We test for heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation across panels using the Breusch–Pagan and Wooldridge tests, respectively, and reject the null of independent and identically distributed disturbances. We calculate panel-corrected standard errors to control for heteroscedasticity in all models and also control for autocorrelation across panels for Dechow–Dichev, REM1, and REM2 using the Prais–Winsten regression.
 
10
Berry and Wero (1993) provide an excellent summary of this theoretical issue, including discussion of physiognomy which fell into disrepute in the early 1900s because its assertions about the relationship between personality and physical appearance were not based on scientific observation. More specifically, early studies examined relationships between isolated facial features and personality, whereas modern studies examine how overall face shape and the configuration of features within a face relate to measures of behavior. This shift to a holistic approach has a strong scientific basis.
 
11
In psychology/sociology research, correlations between psychological/sociological constructs of between about − 0.20 and + 0.20 are considered small, correlations between − 0.20 and − 0.40 and between + 0.20 and + 0.40 are considered moderate in size, and correlations beyond − 0.40 or beyond + 0.40 are considered large (Ashton 2013). Research by Penton-Voak et al. (2006), in the context of the Big 5 personality traits, finds that observers make accurate judgments of extraversion (r = 0.24), emotional stability (r = 0.18), openness (r = 0.22), and extraversion (r = 0.25).
 
12
We use three different proxies for stock returns: raw returns less value-weighted market returns; raw returns less equal-weighted market returns; and raw returns less S&P500 returns. Results are consistent across proxies, ranging from 2.0% excess return to 2.4% excess return. Market adjusted returns are a better proxy than raw returns to assess manager performance as it removes idiosyncratic differences in market returns across years.
 
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Metadata
Title
Welcome to the Gray Zone: Shades of Honesty and Earnings Management
Authors
Pascale Lapointe-Antunes
Kevin Veenstra
Kareen Brown
Heather Li
Publication date
09-01-2021
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 1/2022
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04713-z

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