Earnings management and the allocation of net periodic pension costs to interim periods

Alan I. Blankley, Joseph Comprix, Keejae P. Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We examine the pattern of reported quarterly net periodic pension costs. Quarterly pension costs are one of the largest single expense items for firms with pension plans (around 15% of income before extraordinary items in our sample). Under ASC 270, net pension costs should be recognized as incurred, or as the benefit provided by the expense is realized. We find that over the period of 2004-2010, there is significant variation in the amount of quarterly pension cost firms report. In addition, we find that income-increasing changes in pension costs are significantly associated with meeting or beating analysts' forecasts in a given quarter. We also show that income-decreasing changes to net periodic pension costs that would cause a firm to miss its earnings forecast are extremely rare. Finally, we find evidence that income-increasing and income-decreasing changes in quarterly pension costs are "settled up" in the fourth quarter (e.g., they are reversed).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Accounting
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Earnings management
  • Pensions
  • Quarterly reporting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance


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