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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 17 No. 2 (Spring 2003)

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Corporate Earnings: Facts and Fiction

Article Citation

Lev, Baruch. 2003. "Corporate Earnings: Facts and Fiction ." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 17(2): 27-50.

DOI: 10.1257/089533003765888412

Abstract

Manipulated earnings played a central role in the slew of corporate scandals which surfaced during the last three years. This article focuses on the vulnerability of earnings to manipulation by managers: it surveys the empirical record of manipulation, their major objectives, and the means of manipulation. It then focuses on the major source of earnings manipulation--the multitude of estimates and subjective judgments underlying the comutation of earnings. The article accordingly concludes with a proposal to curb manipulation by requiring managers to routinely compare key estimates with ex post realizations, and revise earnings in case of large deviations.

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Lev, Baruch

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