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The aftermath of public attention on accounting improprieties: Effects on securities class action settlements

Laura E. Simmons

Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 2011, vol. 30, issue 1, 22-49

Abstract: This research examines the effect on securities case settlements from the public focus on accounting fraud immediately following Enron and other large accounting debacles. In addition, to the extent that an 'Enron-effect' occurred, behavioral theory suggests that such an effect would likely dissipate over time. Therefore, I also investigate whether in very recent years an impact from the prior attention on accounting fraud diminishes with the passage of time. Results indicate that following the increased media and public attention upon accounting fraud, characteristics of securities cases that were the focus of this increased attention are associated with incrementally higher settlement amounts - specifically large cases involving financial restatements and cases involving intentional misstatements, i.e., accounting irregularities. Findings regarding whether an 'Enron-effect' has dissipated with the passage of time are mixed. Overall, results contrast with prior research, which did not find support for an 'Enron-effect' on securities case settlements, and suggest that future events that capture public attention may cause defendants in certain securities cases to pay higher amounts, not necessarily because of their own culpability.

Date: 2011
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