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Keywords:

  • pro forma earnings;
  • corporate disclosure;
  • the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

Abstract:  We explore whether investors’ perceptions of pro forma earnings numbers have changed following the regulation of pro forma reporting imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). First, we find that investors appear to pay more attention to pro forma earnings disclosures in the post-SOX period, consistent with the notion that they perceive that regulation generally renders these disclosures more credible. Second, the results indicate that investors discount aggressive pro forma earnings reports in both periods. However, they appear to discount at least some potentially misleading pro forma earnings disclosures more in the post-SOX period. Finally, our results imply that the regulation of pro forma reporting has increased the average quality of pro forma earnings disclosures by filtering out those that are most likely to be misleading. These results are consistent with the conclusions that (1) the quality of pro forma reporting has improved following SOX, and (2) investors’ perceptions of pro forma earnings metrics have changed in the post-SOX regulatory environment.