The impact of surplus free cash flow and audit quality on earnings management the case of growth triangle countries
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© Emerald Group Publishing Limited.Purpose - The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it investigates whether high free-cash-flow companies with low-growth opportunities (surplus free cash flow (SFCF)) are associated with income-increasing earnings management. Second, it scrutinizes the effect of audit quality on the income-increasing earnings management and SFCF and earnings management relationship.Originality/value - Based on an approach used by Chung et al. (2005), this study provides empirical evidence from Asian context studied incorporating three neighboring countries forming Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore-Growth Triangle. This study suggests that the association between SFCF and income-increasing earnings management applies not only in the USA and UK corporations in which most previous studies focussed on but also in the Asian corporations. Factors explaining the association between SFCF and income-increasing earnings management may incorporate aspects related to country of origin.Design/methodology/approach - This study focusses on companies listed on the Bursa Efek Indonesia, BursaMalaysia, and Stock Exchange of Singapore over the period 2005-2010. The cross-sectional modified Jones (1991) model is used to measure discretionary accruals (DACs) (the proxy for earnings management). SFCF is an indicator variable with firm j scored 1 if their retained cash flows is above the sample median and their price to book ratio is below the sample median in fiscal year t; otherwise is scored 0. Audit quality refers to the quality of the auditor. Indicator variable with firm j scored one (1) if their auditor in fiscal year t is a Big 4 audit firm; otherwise scored zero (0).Findings - The empirical result provides supports for the hypothesis suggesting that company managers with high free cash flow and low-growth opportunities tend to use their discretion to select income increasing accounting choices. Investigation based on each of the three-country sub samples indicates that the relationship between SFCF and managers' income-increasing accounting choice is applicable in Malaysia, partially applicable in Singapore but it is not valid in Indonesia. In addition, the statistical analyses based on all sample and country sub-samples indicate that audit quality has negative relationships with earnings management measure. The result of univariate analysis suggests that mean of DACs in companies audited by Big 4 auditors are significantly smaller compared to that of in non-Big 4 audited firms. However, the results of multivariate analysis suggest that audit quality has only partially significant association with earnings management. Moreover, this study finds that Big 4 auditors insignificantly moderate the SFCF-earnings management relationships.Practical implications - This research may have implications for ASEAN economic reformers and regulators who are working on improving corporate governance and transparency in their countries and for investors who need insights about associated type of agency problems that may arise in across countries and Asian context studied.
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