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Short-term debt maturity, monitoring and accruals-based earnings management
journal contributionposted on 2013-06-01, 00:00 authored by Simon FungSimon Fung, J Goodwin
Most prior studies assume a positive relation between debt and earnings management, consistent with the financial distress theory. However, the empirical evidence for financial distress theory is mixed. Another stream of studies argues that lenders of short-term debt play a monitoring role over management, especially when the firm's creditworthiness is not in doubt. To explore the implications of these arguments on managers' earnings management incentives, we examine a sample of US firms over the period 2003-2006 and find that short-term debt is positively associated with accruals-based earnings management (measured by discretionary accruals), consistent with the financial distress theory. We also find that this relation is significantly weaker for firms that are of higher creditworthiness (i.e. investment grade firms), consistent with monitoring benefits outweighing financial distress reasons for managing earnings.