In a forthcoming Journal of Accounting and Economics paper entitled Earnings management, lawsuits, and stock-for-stock acquirers’ market performance, we analyze whether postmerger announcement lawsuits are associated with pre-merger abnormal accruals and the potential effects of lawsuits on acquirers’ market performance. We posit that, by subjecting stock-for-stock acquirers to lawsuits, pre-merger earnings management can have an indirect effect on acquirers’ performance around and after the merger announcement, in addition to the direct effect associated with post-merger accrual reversals.
After analyzing the association between pre-merger announcement abnormal accruals and post-merger announcement lawsuits, we examine whether the market anticipates the potential lawsuits and their consequences at the merger announcement. It is well documented that the average stock-for-stock acquirer experiences significant market losses at the merger announcement. In a fully efficient market, the probability of a lawsuit should be reflected in the market reaction to the merger announcement. To examine the association between the merger announcement abnormal return and the probability of a lawsuit, we use an instrumental variable approach. In a first step, we estimate the probability that an acquirer would be sued, using ex-ante predictors of lawsuits. In a second step, we analyze the association between the merger announcement abnormal return and the probability of a lawsuit. We use the two-stage estimation process because of the potential endogeneity in the relation between lawsuits and performance.
Consistent with our conjectures, we find that pre-merger abnormal accruals are a strong determinant of post-merger lawsuits. The effect of abnormal accruals is significant even after controlling for the post-merger abnormal return, which suggests that pre-merger earnings management has a first order effect on the likelihood of a lawsuit. We also find evidence that the market anticipates the lawsuits at merger announcements. There is a significantly negative association between the market reaction to a merger announcement and the probability that a stock-for-stock acquirer is subsequently sued. Further analyses suggest, however, that the market reaction to the merger announcement only partially reflects the probability of a lawsuit. First, we find that stock-for-stock acquirers’ long-term market under performance is largely limited to litigated acquisitions. Second, and more importantly, we find a very strong negative association between the likelihood of a lawsuit and the long-term market performance over the four years after the merger announcement. Therefore, post-merger announcement long-term market performance can be predicted using lawsuit-related information that is available at the time of the merger announcement. We do not claim that lawsuits are the only cause of the post-merger announcement long term under performance. The evidence only indicates that lawsuits are a contributing factor to the under performance.
The full paper is available here.