Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Accountancy

First Advisor

Lawrence D. Brown

Second Advisor

Lixin Huang

Third Advisor

Siva Nathan

Fourth Advisor

Arianna Pinello

Abstract

Given the importance of historical dividend policy to firms, I investigate whether dividend payers manipulate earnings through real activities to smooth dividend levels and dividend payout ratios. Using Compustat’s Execucomp database, I find evidence that dividend policy impacts both upward and downward real earnings management. I find that payers manipulate earnings upward through real activities to mitigate the shortfall of pre-managed earnings relative to prior year dividends when pre-managed earnings are lower than dividends paid in the prior year, suggesting that dividend levels are an important earnings benchmark. I document a stronger relationship between changes in pre-managed earnings and real earnings management for payers than for non-payers, suggesting that dividend policies impact real earnings management. Consistent with the importance of dividend policy in real earnings management, I show that dividend payers that follow conservative dividend policies manipulate earnings to a greater extent than dividend payers that do not follow conservative dividend policies.

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