The Prevalence and Costs of Financial Misrepresentation
60 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2020
Date Written: January 29, 2020
We use a comprehensive database of regulatory enforcement actions for financial misrepresentation and apply Receiver Operating Characteristics theory to construct a misrepresentation prediction model. The model performs well both in and out of sample, with an average area under the curve (AUC) of 0.78 in out-of-sample tests. The model’s base case implies that 22.3% of Compustat-listed firms are engaged in financial misrepresentation that is potentially sanctionable by regulators in an average year. The average violation period is 3.1 years, implying that 7.2% of firms initiate new programs of financial misrepresentation each year. Of these, 3.5% eventually are caught and sanctioned. These findings yield numerical estimates of the size of the price distortions imposed by misrepresentation on the shares of both misrepresenting and non-misrepresenting firms, and the size of firms’ ex ante expected costs – incorporating both the probability of getting caught and the penalties if caught – of engaging in financial misrepresentation.
Keywords: Fraud, prediction, enforcement, social cost
JEL Classification: G38, K22, L51, M48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation