• overvalued equity;
  • highly valued equity;
  • CEO equity incentives;
  • discretionary accruals

Abstract:  Overvalued equity provides a strong incentive for managers to report earnings that do not disappoint the market ( Jensen, 2005). We find that this can be extended to highly valued equity more generally. In the year following the classification as highly valued and compared to firms with less extreme valuations, highly valued firms have significantly higher discretionary accruals and exhibit a more pronounced positive association between discretionary accruals and proxies for the likelihood of failing to meet earnings targets. These findings are consistent with the use of discretionary accruals to manage earnings in support of extreme valuation. Because highly valued equity will likely result in CEOs with valuable stock and stock option portfolios, we test whether and show that the overvalued equity incentive is incremental to a CEO's equity portfolio incentive. One implication is that directors and audit committees should be especially on guard for possible earnings management when a firm has extremely high valuation multiples and when the CEO has a lot of equity at risk.