Creative accounting in Spain : some evidence from Spanish quoted companies


  • Jordi Perramon
  • Oriol Amat Salas
  • Catherine Gowthorpe


The nature and incidence of earnings management practices have been examined in many research studies, especially in the United States. Research into such practices in Europe, and specifically in Spain has been less common. This paper makes a contribution to the existing literature by offering an analysis of certain features of Spanish accounting that can be classified as earnings management. The population of companies under review comprises those included in the IBEX-35 index, and so includes the largest companies in Spain. The effects upon earnings of four commonly encountered features in Spanish accounting practice are examined and quantified: audit report qualifications, special authorisations to override accounting regulation, changes in accounting policy and extraordinary items. The results of the analysis show that net earnings are affected to a significant extent by these items. The paper concludes that these relatively overt forms of earnings management are employed in the financial statements of several leading Spanish companies. While a reduction in the level of options offered by accounting regulation may help to reduce the incidence of earnings management, it is noted that a tightening of standards in one area tends to simply shift the location of earnings management. Remedial measures should, therefore, also include improvements in supervision.