Strategic benchmarks in earnings announcements: The selective disclosure of prior-period earnings components

Catherine M. Schrand, Beverly R. Walther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


This paper provides evidence that managers strategically select the prior-period earnings amount that is used as a benchmark to evaluate current-period earnings in quarterly earnings announcements. Managers are more likely to separately announce a prior-period gain from the sale of property, plant, and equipment (PPE) than a loss. This strategy provides the lowest possible benchmark for evaluating current earnings, thereby allowing the manager to highlight the most favorable change in earnings. This strategic disclosure behavior is more likely to occur when it prevents a negative earnings surprise. The observed strategic disclosure decisions are consistent with a conjecture by managers that the nonrecurring nature of the prior-period gain/ loss will be forgotten unless it is separately announced. Consistent with this conjecture, there is some evidence that equity investors, one potential target of strategic reporting, use the benchmark that managers provide in earnings announcements to evaluate current earnings, even when the components of this benchmark have different persistence. However, cross-sectional analyses provide no evidence that managers ex post exploit the equity mispricing that occurs between the earnings announcement date and the release of the financial statements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-177
Number of pages27
JournalAccounting Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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