University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

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Family control, socioemotional wealth and earnings management in publicly traded firms

Author(s): G Martin, Joanna Campbell, L Gomez-Mejia

Status: Published
Year: 2016
Publication Name: Journal of Business Ethics
Volume: 133, Issue: 3, Page Number(s): 453-469


We examine the unique nature of agency problems within publicly traded family firms by investigating the earnings management decision of dominant family owners relative to non-family. To do so, we draw upon literature demonstrating that family owners are loss averse with respect to the family’s socioemotional wealth, or the affective endowment derived from firm ownership and control. Our theory and findings suggest that potential reputational consequences of earnings management lead family principals to engage in less of this practice relative to non-family firms, and that founder family firms are less likely than non-founder family firms to use earnings management. Moreover, the family-firm effect varies with the firm size, the degree of CEO entrenchment, and the firm’s stock structure. We provide important insights regarding differences between family and non-family principals in the use of unethical accounting practices, thereby extending agency theory and advancing an underdeveloped research area.


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