Earnings Management Ethics: Stakeholders’ Perceptions

Yasser Barghathi, David Collison, Louise Crawford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The chapter examines the perceptions of a range of stakeholders regarding the ethics of earnings management (EM) by Libyan commercial banks. EM ethics research has largely been based on a questionnaire developed by Bruns and Merchant (1990). This chapter addresses the issue in two different ways. First, it directly examines the interviewees’ perceptions on whether EM is ethical or not. Second, stakeholders’ perceptions are surveyed using a set of questions that consider, for example, the effect of EM on others’ interests and whether EM is ethical if applied within General Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the law. A total of 28 semi-structured interviews were carried out with stakeholders comprising: preparers of financial statements, users, regulators, and academics. A questionnaire survey of stakeholders which yielded 102 responses (response rate 53%) was also carried out. Interview findings indicated that 50% of the interviewees have the view that EM is ethical. Questionnaire results, on the other hand, revealed that EM is agreed, on balance, to be perceived as unethical. However, if applied within GAAP and the legal framework it is perceived, on balance, to be ethical. The chapter provides insights into stakeholders’ perceptions of EM ethics. The findings are of particular relevance to the users, and specifically, the external auditor as well as current and potential investors. EM practices, according to the literature, degrade financial reporting quality and may affect economic decisions. Auditors should be aware that EM may be regarded as an ethical practice and therefore more scrutiny might be required. In terms of accountability a manager should be held accountable not only to shareholders but also to society as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781838676698
ISBN (Print)9781838676704
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameResearch on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
ISSN (Print)1574-0765


  • earnings management,
  • business ethics
  • accountability
  • perceptions
  • banks
  • Libya


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