Date of this Version
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine whether Australian agricultural firms display big bath behaviour during droughts by recognising extraordinary and abnormal losses. It is hypothesised that Australian agricultural firms are more likely to report big bath losses in drought years than in non-drought years and, in a given drought year, agricultural firms are more likely to report big bath losses than firms in other industries.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors analyse 405 firm-years data for agricultural firms over 1980-1995. For comparison, they also analyse matched-pair samples of 17 and 30 non-agricultural firms for the drought years of 1983 and 1995, and matched-pair samples of 19 non-agricultural firms for the non-drought years of 1986 and 1990, respectively. Both univariate and multivariate analyses are used to test the hypotheses.
Findings – It is found that agricultural firms are more likely to take big baths in drought years than in non-drought years. Further, in a given drought year, agricultural firms are more likely to take big baths than non-agricultural firms. Further analyses of sales, profitability, and extraordinary and abnormal items support the idea that big baths reflect managerial opportunism rather than the economic consequences of droughts.
Originality/value – Previous studies have not investigated the impact of natural calamities like flood and drought on accounting choices. This paper makes an original contribution to the accounting literature by documenting evidence on the extent to which an act of nature, over which management has little or no control, can influence accounting choices.
This document has been peer reviewed.