Earnings Performance and Discretionary Disclosure



While the influence of earnings performance on disclosure is a fundamental issue in the disclosure literature, our understanding of this influence is limited. In this paper, I examine a comprehensive set of disclosures from a sample of firms experiencing an extended period of seasonally adjusted earnings increases. I study how these firms adjust disclosure in response to earnings increases, how disclosure changes as the period of strong earnings performance nears an end and how firms disclose during a subsequent period of earnings decline. I find an increase in disclosure during the period of increased earnings. This increase is pervasive across all types of disclosure and tends to be bundled with earnings announcements. The market responds positively to this disclosure. Firms continue to disclose at a high level as they approach earnings declines. However, they shift to disclosures that focus on the positive short-term results and do not discuss the impending decreases. While this behavior is systematic, the market does not appear to anticipate the subsequent earnings declines. Once the firms announce earnings declines, the magnitude of disclosure returns to the level provided prior to the increased earnings.