Using a sample of Taiwan’s public firms, this paper examines whether managers use discretionary write-offs and abnormal accruals jointly to reach earnings targets and how corporate governance mechanisms react to such opportunistic behavior. We develop a set of simultaneous equations that capture executives’ incentives to manage earnings through write-offs and accrual management. These incentives include the existence and tightness of accounting-based covenants, “big bath,” income smoothing, and changes in senior management. The empirical results show that firms with larger discretionary write-offs also have lower discretionary accruals. In addition, we find that these earnings management tools are endogenous, suggesting that discretionary write-offs and discretionary accruals are partial complements for earnings manipulation and that their magnitudes are determined jointly. These findings contrast sharply with the tenor of discussion in the U.S. literature concerning the potential for using asset write-offs and discretionary accruals to manipulate earnings, which documents that managers use their discretion over accruals to signal economic realities rather than to obfuscate. Moreover, the results reveal that the empirical association between discretionary write-offs and abnormal accruals is more pronounced in weakly governed firms, suggesting that a strong governance setting is likely to constrain management’s discretionary behavior. The above implications are robust to a number of alternative specifications and variables definitions.
Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting,40(1),41-74