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Insider Trading, Earnings Management and Corporate Governance: Empirical Evidence Based on Hong Kong Firms


  • We gratefully acknowledge the research grant provided by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council and thank Ms Ming Yin and Ms Angel Sung for their research assistance. We thank Prof. Ferdinand Gul and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.


We document positive association between earnings management and insider selling after the fiscal year-end for Hong Kong firms. This positive association is especially evident before the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Our findings suggest that Hong Kong executives manage reported earnings to maximize their private benefits from insider selling. Additionally, we find that a higher proportion of independent directors (INED) on corporate boards moderate the positive association between insider selling and earnings management. Stricter monitoring of earnings management by INED is especially evident when no member of the family with majority ownership is present on corporate boards as a director. This suggests that the presence of family members with majority ownership on corporate boards significantly reduces INED's monitoring effectiveness. Our findings suggest that strict regulations are needed to control insider trading, and independence of corporate boards is important for monitoring of earnings management associated with insider trading. Furthermore, appointment of family members with majority shareholdings should be avoided to enhance independence and to monitor effectiveness of corporate boards.