CEO and CFO Career Penalties to Missing Quarterly Analysts Forecasts
Executive Summary — (Previous title: "CEO and CFO Career Consequences to Missing Quarterly Earnings Benchmarks.") This paper investigates whether the failure to meet quarterly earnings benchmarks such as the analysts' consensus forecast matters to CEO and CFO careers, after controlling for both operating and stock return performance and the magnitude of the earnings "surprise" revealed at the earnings announcement. In particular, it evaluates a comprehensive set of career consequences such as the impact on compensation, in the form of bonus and equity grants, and the dismissal of both the CEO and the CFO, conditioned on the failure to meet quarterly earnings benchmarks. Key concepts include:
- Missing analysts' consensus forecasts can potentially damage senior executives' careers. CEOs and CFOs also experience compensation penalties if their firms fail to meet the analysts' consensus forecast.
- Most of these career penalties for missing earnings benchmarks have increased in the post-Sarbanes-Oxley environment.
We find that missing quarterly earnings benchmarks, especially the analyst consensus earnings forecast, is associated with career penalties in the form of a reduced bonus, smaller equity grants, and a greater chance of forced dismissal for both CEOs and CFOs during the period 1993-2004. These results are obtained after controlling for the magnitude of the earnings surprise, operating and stock return performance, and are significant in a statistical and in an economic sense. Career penalties for failing to meet the analyst consensus estimate are higher for firms that give quarterly earnings guidance and in the post-SOX period. Our evidence suggests that (i) boards appear to react directly to managers' ability to meet earnings targets or to the information that is reflected in meeting such benchmarks; and (ii) senior managers' preoccupation with meeting earnings benchmarks might be based at least partly on career concerns.
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