Indexed on: 12 Jun '16Published on: 11 Jun '16Published in: Review of Accounting Studies
Conditional conservatism is an integral but often unmodeled part of the normal accrual process. The standard economic determinants of accruals contain information about unrealized losses. We argue that accountants recognize these unrealized losses as disaggregated write-downs for small asset pools. Modeling disaggregated impairments yields new economic insights about accruals and improved accrual models. We predict that accrual conservatism manifests as a sum of asymmetries for a vector of news indicators, rather than as an asymmetry for a scalar aggregate news proxy. We argue that more detailed segment-level and quarterly indicators have an incremental effect on annual firm-level accruals. We also predict a dynamic effect of successive loss indicators because accountants look for consistent patterns in these variables. Empirical results for U.S. firms support our predictions. The asymmetries in accruals are consistent with conservatism in validation tests. We also document improved statistical power and type I error in earnings management tests.