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Scholars have investigated the association between executives' incentives and earnings management. Most of the extant literature focuses on equity executives' incentives, while most of the earnings management literature focuses on accrual earnings management (AEM), not real earnings management (REM). This paper investigates the association between chief executive officers’ (CEOs) and chief financial officer (CFOs) cash compensation and REM and explores who has more influence on REM, the CEO or the CFO.Design/methodology/approachThe authors use the data of all listed companies on the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges for the period from 2009 to 2017 and ordinary least squares regression as a baseline model and the Chow test to capture whether the CEO's or the CFO's cash compensation has more influence on REM. To address potential endogeneity issues, the authors use a firm-fixed effect technique and two-stage least squares regression.FindingsThe authors find that CEOs' and CFOs' cash compensation is significantly associated with REM, suggesting that paying non-equity compensation to the CEO and CFO is negatively associated with REM. The authors also find that the CFO's cash compensation has a more significant influence on REM than the CEO's cash compensation, suggesting that the CFO's accounting and financial knowledge strengthens his or her power on the quality of financial reporting.Practical implicationsThe study contributes to the literature of agency and contract theories by using cash-based compensation to provide strong evidence that CEO's and CFO's compensation is associated with REM. It also contributes to the earnings management literature by examining the effect of CEOs' and CFOs' cash compensation on earnings management using proxies for REM-related activities. The study also contributes to the institutional theory by providing empirical evidence on the governance role of executives' cash compensation in deterring REM. Finally, it is the first to examine the relationship between CEO's and CFO's cash compensation and REM, and the first to explore who is more influential regarding REM in emerging markets, the CEO or the CFO.Originality/valueAs a response to the call for investigations of the role of non-equity-based compensation in earnings management and the call to consider non-developed institutional contexts in governance research, this study extends prior studies by providing novel evidence on the relationship between CEOs' and CFOs' non-equity compensation and REM in China's emerging market. The study documents that the CFO has a greater influence on REM than the CEO does.
Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 11, 2022
Keywords: Non-equity compensation; Real activities; Chief executive officer; Chief financial officer; China
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