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Earnings management, in accounting, is the act of intentionally influencing the process of financial reporting to obtain some private gain. Earnings management involves the alteration of financial reports to mislead stakeholders about the organization's underlying performance, or to "influence contractual outcomes that depend on reported accounting numbers."
Earnings management has a negative effect on earnings quality, and may weaken the credibility of financial reporting. Furthermore, in a 1998 speech Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt called earnings management "widespread". Despite its pervasiveness, the complexity of accounting rules can make earnings management difficult for individual investors to detect.
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