DOI: 10.1002/jcaf.22707 ISSN: 1044-8136

Are performance explanations credible or strategic? Evidence from a large sample of MD&As1

Sabrina Gong, Yamin Hao, Xiaojia Wang
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Accounting


This paper examines managers’ explanations of firm performance (i.e., management attributions) in a large sample of the Management's Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) section of annual reports. We find that managers of poorly performing firms tend to attribute firm performance to external factors. We further propose a prediction model to decompose management external attributions into a credible part and a strategic part and find that both components are negatively related to firm performance. This evidence suggests that management external attributions partially reflect the actual impact of external conditions on firm performance and are not entirely subject to managerial opportunism. Additionally, we find that investors react more strongly to firm performance when managers provide credible external attributions, especially for firms without a bad reputation for strategic external attributions. We also show that executive compensation is less sensitive to firm performance when managers make more strategic external attributions.

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