Bridge over ocean
1 March 2013 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 69, Issue 2

Earnings Manipulation and Expected Returns

  1. Messod D. Beneish
  2. Charles M.C. Lee
  3. D. Craig Nichols

An accounting-based earnings manipulation detection model has strong out-of-sample power to predict cross-sectional returns. Companies with a higher probability of manipulation (M-score) earn lower returns on every decile portfolio sorted by size, book-to-market, momentum, accruals, and short interest. The predictive power of M-score stems from its ability to forecast changes in accruals and is most pronounced among low-accrual (ostensibly “high-earnings-quality”) stocks. These findings support the investment value of careful fundamental and forensic analyses of public companies.

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