Managers’ incentives to manipulate earnings in management buyout contests: An examination of how corporate governance and market mechanisms mitigate earnings management
Journal of Forensic Accounting
In an MBO contest, managers offer to buy the firm from public shareholders at a premium to the current market price and thus have incentives to buy the firm “cheap.” Prior studies have found evidence that managers, on average, manipulate earnings downward prior to an MBO offer in an attempt to convince shareholders that their offer is fair. We extend this finding by attempting to explain the substantial cross sectional variation in the degree of manipulation across firms reported in these earlier studies. We find that boards with more independent directors and higher levels of incentive based compensation for the CEO act to discourage such manipulation. Additionally, our results show that some shareholders, minority and preexisting large outside blockholders, appear to be misled by the manipulation. However, new blockholders that acquire large shareholdings in the year before the offer are not. We also discover that managers are more likely to revise their bid upwards when the manipulation is most severe and that these new blockholders put pressure on managers to make these revisions. Finally, we investigate whether the manipulation has an impact on the final buyout contest outcome. We find that downward manipulation does not prevent managers from retaining control of the firm; however, they pay a higher premium.