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Earnings Management, Real Activities Management, Capital Markets, Private And Public Firms
This paper examines whether public equity firms and private equity firms with public debt exhibit different degrees of real earnings management, defined as the manipulation of operational activities in order to influence reported earnings. Public equity firms face intense capital market scrutiny that their private equity counterparts do not. Therefore, this study’s comparison of the two types of firms provides insight on the impact of capital market pressure on real earnings management behaviors. My results show that public equity firms are more likely than private equity firms to opportunistically alter normal operations to improve earnings by pushing sales through discounts and promotions, and by lowering costs of sales through overproduction. I find no difference in abnormal discretionary expenses between public equity and private equity firms. Although private equity firms with public debt do not face the same capital market pressure that public equity firms face, they are not immune from incentives to engage in real earnings management. Specifically, I find that private equity firms with public debt engage in real earnings management as their debt moves closer to default. Moreover, private equity firms with public debt that do engage in real earnings management appear to emphasize the zero earnings benchmark, consistent with prior research, suggesting that this benchmark is of primary importance to creditors.