Accrual-Based and Real Earnings Management: An International Comparison for Investor Protection


This paper examines the differences in accrual-based and real earnings management across countries from the perspective of investor protection. Following prior research (Leuz et al., 2003), we hypothesize that accrual-based earnings management is more constrained by strict discipline in countries with stronger investor protection. For real earnings management in countries with stronger investor protection, we have two hypotheses. One is that real earnings management is more often implemented to substitute for accrual-based earnings management. The other is that real earnings management is less often implemented, as with accrual-based earnings management. Our examination uses data from 222,513 firm-year observations drawn from 38 countries covering 1991 to 2010. The results show that managers in countries with stronger investor protection tend to engage in real earnings management instead of accrual-based earnings management. We also find that real earnings management is constrained by analyst following. Our results are not affected by the control of audit quality or the calculation method used for earnings management measures according to country and year.


Earnings management, Investor protection, Corporation law, Securities law, Regulation

JEL Classification

G34, K22, M41, P4, G38


Masahiro ENOMOTO
Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration,
Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059

Fumihiko KIMURA
Graduate School of Economics and Management,
Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

Faculty of Business Administration,
Tohoku Gakuin University, Sendai, Japan