, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 419-451
Date: 01 Jun 2007

Rewriting earnings history

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Abstract

Research on the usefulness of financial information generally focuses on the innovation in the information examined, such as an earnings surprise or cash flow growth. Consequently, prior research sheds little light on the role of the rich historical record of financial information in users’ decision-making. Using a sample of published restatements of earnings, we show that the revision of the historical pattern of earnings, distinct from the magnitude of the restatement and its impact on current earnings, significantly affects investors’ decisions and predicts class action lawsuits. Specifically, we find that restatements that eliminate or shorten histories of earnings growth or positive earnings have significantly more adverse effects for investor valuations and the likelihood of lawsuits than other restatements. This evidence about the value-relevance of refreshing the historical record of earnings is pertinent to the FASB’s recent cautious expansion of the scope of circumstances that require a restatement of financial information in FAS 154.