REVISION: Non-answers during Conference Calls
We construct a novel measure of disclosure choice by firms. Our measure is computed using linguistic analysis of conference calls to identify whether a manager’s response to an analyst question is a “non-answer.” Using our measure, about 11% of analyst questions elicit non-answers from managers, a rate that is stable over time and similar across industries. A useful feature of our measure is that it enables an examination of disclosure choice within a call. Analyst questions with a negative tone, greater uncertainty, greater complexity, or requests for greater detail are more likely to trigger non-answers. We find performance-related questions tend to be associated with non-answers, and this association is weaker when performance news is favorable. We also find analyst questions about proprietary information are associated with non-answers, and this association is stronger when firm competition is more intense.
REVISION: Non-GAAP Reporting and Investment
When managers care about their firms’ stock prices, their investment decisions become sensitive to transitory items in GAAP earnings. Non-GAAP earnings can remove these transitory items, and thus improve investment efficiency, but also introduce opportunistic bias, and thus hide inefficient investment. We quantify this trade-off by estimating a dynamic model in which a manager makes investment and non-GAAP disclosure decisions, and where investors rationally anticipate his incentives. We find the manager’s ability to distort non-GAAP earnings creates inefficient investment choices and destroys firm value.We estimate the magnitude of the loss in the average firm value at just under 1%.
New: What Is CEO Overconfidence? Evidence from Executive Assessments
We use detailed assessments of CEO personalities to explore the option-based measure of CEO overconfidence, Longholder, introduced by Malmendier and Tate (2005a) and widely used in the behavioral corporate finance and economics literatures. Longholder is significantly related to several specific characteristics and is negatively related to general ability. These relations also hold for overconfidence measures derived from CEOs’ earnings guidance. Investment-cash flow sensitivities are larger for both Longholder and less able CEOs. Overall, Longholder CEOs have many of the same characteristics traditionally associated with overconfident individuals, including lower general ability, supporting the interpretation of this measure as reflecting overconfidence.
REVISION: Information versus Investment
The accuracy of firm information disclosures and the efficiency of long-term investment both play crucial roles in the economy and capital markets. We estimate a dynamic model that captures a trade-off between these two goals that arises when managers confront realistic incentives to misreport financial statements and distort their real investment choices. Managers in our model distort reported profits by 6.7% of sales on average. Counterfactual analysis reveals that while eliminating this misreporting through disclosure regulation is possible, it incentivizes managers to distort real investment, which results in a 1% drop in average firm value, reflecting a quantitatively meaningfully tradeoff.
REVISION: Accounting Fundamentals and Systematic Risk: Corporate Failure over the Business Cycle
In this paper, we use accounting fundamentals to measure systematic risk of distress. Our main testable prediction—that this risk increases with the probability of recessionary failure, P(R|F)—is based on a stylized model that guides our empirical analyses. We first apply the lasso method to select accounting fundamentals that can be combined into P(R|F) estimates. We then use the obtained estimates in asset-pricing tests. This approach successfully extracts systematic risk information from accounting data—we document a significant positive premium associated with P(R|F) estimates. The premium covaries with the news about the business cycle and aggregate failure rates. Additional tests underscore the importance of the “structure” imposed through recessionary-failure-probability estimation. The “agnostic” return predictor that relies only on past correlations between the same fundamental variables and returns exhibits markedly different properties.
New: How Common Are Intentional GAAP Violations? Estimates From a Dynamic Model
This paper uses data on detected misstatements — earnings restatements — and a dynamic model to estimate the extent of undetected misstatements that violate GAAP. The model features a CEO who can manipulate his firm's stock price by misstating earnings. I find the CEO's expected cost of misleading investors is low. The probability of detection over a five-year horizon is 13.91%, and the average misstatement, if detected, results in an 8.53% loss in the CEO's retirement wealth. The low expected cost implies a high fraction of CEOs who misstate earnings at least once at 60%, with 2%–22% of CEOs starting to misstate earnings in each year 2003–2010, inflation in stock prices across CEOs who misstate earnings at 2.02%, and inflation in stock prices across all CEOs at 0.77%. Wealthier CEOs manipulate less, and the average misstatement is larger in smaller firms.
REVISION: How Common Are Intentional GAAP Violations? Estimates from a Dynamic Model
This paper uses data on detected misstatements — earnings restatements — and a dynamic model to estimate the extent of undetected misstatements that violate GAAP. The model features a CEO who can manipulate his firm’s stock price by misstating earnings. I find the CEO’s expected cost of misleading investors is low. The probability of detection over a five-year horizon is 13.91%, and the average misstatement, if detected, results in an 8.53% loss in the CEO’s retirement wealth. The low expected cost implies a high fraction of CEOs who misstate earnings at least once at 60% with 2%–22% of CEOs starting to misstate earnings in each year 2003–2010, inflation in stock prices across CEOs who misstate earnings at 2.02%, and inflation in stock prices across all CEOs at 0.77%. Wealthier CEOs manipulate less, and the average misstatement is larger in smaller firms.
REVISION: CEO Personality and Firm Policies
Based on two samples of high quality personality data for chief executive officers (CEOs), we use linguistic features extracted from conferences calls and statistical learning techniques to develop a measure of CEO personality in terms of the Big Five traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience. These personality measures have strong out-of-sample predictive performance and are stable over time. Our measures of the Big Five personality traits are associated with financing choices, investment choices and firm operating performance.
REVISION: Detecting Deceptive Discussions in Conference Calls
We estimate classification models of deceptive discussions during quarterly earnings conference calls. Using data on subsequent financial restatements (and a set of criteria to identify especially serious accounting problems), we label each call as “truthful” or “deceptive”. Our models are developed with the word categories that have been shown by previous psychological and linguistic research to be related to deception. Using conservative statistical tests, we find that the out-of-sample ...