, Volume 84, Issue 4, pp 479-515
Date: 20 Aug 2013

Pro forma earnings disclosure: the effects of non-GAAP earnings and earnings-before on investors’ information processing

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Abstract

Research on pro forma earnings disclosure usually does not distinguish between different types of pro forma earnings. However, non-GAAP earnings and earnings-before (EB) metrics such as the EBIT fit the conventional perception of pro forma earnings but offer varying degrees of flexibility to management in pursuing strategic reporting motives. This study presents the results of an experiment that builds upon Maines and McDaniel’s (Account Rev 75(2):179–207, 2000) framework and analyzes if variations in the use and combination of pro forma earnings information affect whether nonprofessional investors acquire (pro forma) earnings information, and how this information is evaluated, and weighted when making investment-related judgments. Our results indicate that a “pure” non-GAAP disclosure increases investors’ evaluation of a company’s earnings performance compared to all other reporting strategies. However, we also find that nonprofessional investors consider non-GAAP information strategically motivated and thus weight it less heavily in arriving at investment-related judgments. Overall, we find that investors’ judgments (i.e., the overall favorability of the earnings announcement and the company’s attractiveness as an investment) are highest when the earnings press release contains the non-GAAP earnings and the EB measure. This has important implications for behavioral accounting theory as well as corporate practice and policy-making.