We examine the interaction between discretionary and non-discretionary accruals in a stewardship setting. Contracting includes multiple rounds of renegotiation based on contractible accounting information and non-contractible but more timely non-accounting information. We show that accounting regulation aimed at increasing earnings quality from a valuation perspective (earnings persistence) may have a significant impact on how firms rationally respond in terms of allowing accrual discretion in order to alleviate the impact on the stewardship role of earnings. Increasing the precision of more timely non-accounting information (analyst earnings forecasts) increases the ex ante value of the firm and reduces costly earnings management. There is an optimal level of reversible non-discretionary accrual noise introduced through revenue recognition policies. Tight rules-based accounting regulation, as opposed to leaving firms more choice over non-discretionary accrual policies, may lead firms to rationally respond by inducing costly earnings management. More generally, regulating both earnings persistence and the tightness of admissible auditing policies may not result in less equilibrium earnings management.
European Accounting Review, 2013, Vol 22, Issue 2, p. 257-296