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The Detection of Earnings Manipulation Messod D. Beneish

The Detection of Earnings Manipulation Messod D. Beneish

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Published by Jae Jun
A mathematical model that uses financial ratios and eight variables to identify whether a company has manipulated its earnings. The variables are constructed from the data in the company's financial statements and, once calculated, create an M-Score to describe the degree to which the earnings have been manipulated.
A mathematical model that uses financial ratios and eight variables to identify whether a company has manipulated its earnings. The variables are constructed from the data in the company's financial statements and, once calculated, create an M-Score to describe the degree to which the earnings have been manipulated.

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Published by: Jae Jun on Jun 24, 2010
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The Detection of Earnings Manipulation
Messod D. Beneish*June 1999Comments Welcome
* Associate Professor, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, 1309 E. 10th StreetBloomington, Indiana 47405, dbeneish@indiana.edu, 812 855-2628. I have benefited from thecomments of Vic Bernard, Jack Ciesielski, Linda DeAngelo, Martin Fridson, Cam Harvey, DavidHsieh, Charles Lee, Eric Press, Bob Whaley, Mark Zmijewski, workshop participants at Duke,Maryland, Michigan, and Université du Québec à Montréal. I am indebted to David Hsieh for hisgenerous econometric advice and the use of his estimation subroutines. I thank Julie Azoulay,Pablo Cisilino and Melissa McFadden for expert assistance.
 
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AbstractThe Detection of Earnings Manipulation
The paper profiles a sample of earnings manipulators, identifies their distinguishingcharacteristics, and estimates a model for detecting manipulation. The model’s variables aredesigned to capture either the effects of manipulation or preconditions that may prompt firms toengage in such activity. The results suggest a systematic relation between the probability of manipulation and financial statement variables. The evidence is consistent with accounting databeing useful in detecting manipulation and assessing the reliability of accounting earnings.In holdout sample tests, the model identifies approximately half of the companies involvedin earnings manipulation prior to public discovery. Because companies discovered manipulatingearnings see their stocks plummet in value, the model can be a useful screening device forinvesting professionals. While the model is easily implemented-- the data can be extracted from anannual report--, the screening results require further investigation to determine whether thedistortions in financial statement numbers result from earnings manipulation or have anotherstructural root.
 
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Introduction
The extent to which earnings are manipulated has long been a question of interest toanalysts, regulators, researchers, and other investment professionals. While the SEC's recentcommitment to vigorously investigate earnings manipulation (see Levitt (1998)) has sparkedrenewed interest in the area, there has been little in the academic and professional literature on thedetection earnings manipulation.
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This paper presents a model to distinguish manipulated from non-manipulated reporting. Idefine earnings manipulation as an instance where management violates Generally AcceptedAccounting Principles (GAAP) in order to beneficially represent the firm’s financial performance.I use financial statement data to construct variables that seek to capture the effects of manipulationand preconditions that may prompt firms to engage in such activity. Since manipulation typicallyconsists of an artificial inflation of revenues or deflation of expenses, I find that variables that takeinto account the simultaneous bloating in asset accounts have predictive content. I also find thatsales growth has discriminatory power since the primary characteristic of sample manipulators isthat they have high growth prior to periods during which manipulation is in force.I conduct tests using a sample of 74 firms that manipulate earnings and all COMPUSTATfirms matched by two-digit SIC for which data are available in the period 1982-1992. I find thatsample manipulators typically overstate earnings by recording fictitious, unearned, or uncertainrevenue, recording fictitious inventory, or improperly capitalizing costs. The context of earnings
 
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A model for detecting earnings manipulation is in Beneish (1997). The model in that paper differs from themodel in this study in three ways: (i) the model is estimated with 64 treatment firms vs 74 firms in the presentstudy, (ii) control firms are COMPUSTAT firms with the largest unexpected accruals vs. COMPUSTAT firms inthe same industry in the present study, and (iii) the set of explanators differ across studies, with the present studypresenting a more parsimonious model.

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