In this paper, we investigate the relation between the different accounting treatments of R&D expenditures and the risk of the entity in order to identify under which treatment insiders are more likely to carry out earnings management. By analysing the R&D investment strategies of a sample of 137 listed Italian entities that complied with the requirements of IAS 38 during fiscal year 2009, following Lantz and Sahut (2005), we calculate several indexes that show the preferences of insiders to account R&D expenditures as costs or capital assets, and we study the relation of such preferences with the risk of the entity, which we measure with the unlevered beta. We hypothesize that the entities, which considered the R&D investments as costs, are the riskiest ones due to the higher probability that insiders carried out earnings management. Our results confirm such hypothesis. This paper could have implications for academics and standard setters that could learn that behind accounting discretion, insiders could opportunistically behave against outsiders.
Keywords: IAS 38; R&D accounting treatment; risk; earnings management. First submission: 30 June 2012, accepted: 31 March 2014