초록 close

2011년 한국채택국제회계기준이 도입된 이후 현금흐름표상 이자와 배당의 수취 및 지급에 대한 활동분류가 기업의 재량에 맡겨졌다. 이러한 재량권은 해당 현금흐름의 경제적 실질을 반영한 활동분류를 가능하게 함으로써 회계정보의 질이 개선될 것으로 기대되지만, 한편으로는 일부 경영자가 영업현금흐름을 높이는 수단으로 이용할 가능성도 열어 놓았다. 본 연구의 주요 목적은 한국채택국제회계기준 도입 이후 이자와 배당의 수취 및 지급의 활동분류에 관한 재량권을 활용하여 영업현금흐름을 증가시킨 기업들을 파악하고 그 유인을 살펴보는 데에 있다. 본 연구는 이자지급에 관한 재량적 분류의 유인만을 살펴본 선행연구와는 달리, 이자지급 외에도 이자와 배당의 수취에 관한 재량적 분류까지 고려하여 영업현금흐름 조정 여부를 판단하였고, 신용평가기관들이 회사채 신용등급을 결정할 때에 채권발행기업의 영업현금흐름을 주요 판단기준으로 활용하는 사실을 고려하여, 분석대상을 회사채 신용등급을 받은 기업들로 한정하였다. 본 연구의 주요 분석결과는 다음과 같다. 먼저, 회사채 신용등급이 낮을수록 영업현금흐름을 증가시키는 활동분류를 선택한 것으로 나타났다. 특히, 신용등급이 투자적격과 비적격의 경계에 있는 기업일수록 활동분류의 재량권을 활용하여 영업현금흐름을 높일 유인이 더 강한 것으로 나타났다. 추가분석으로, 이러한 기업들의 영업현금흐름 조정에 대해 신용평가기관이 어떻게 반응하는지 살펴보았다. 차이분석을 수행한 결과, 신용평가기관은 영업현금흐름을 높이는 활동분류를 처음으로 선택한 기업에 대해 그 신용등급을 할인하는 것과 일치하는 결과를 발견하였다. 이는 신용평가기관들이 기업의 영업현금흐름 조정 유인을 꿰뚫어 보고 부정적으로 반응하였음을 시사한다.


Since 2011 in which the IFRS was first adopted by Korean listed companies, a discretion is granted to managers when classifying cash receipts and payments of interest and dividends on the statement of cash flows. On one hand, this discretion is expected to improve the quality of accounting information by allowing managers to reflect the economic substance of those cash flows in categorizing them. On the other hand, a possibility opens up that managers could employ the discretion as a means of managing operating cash flows(CFOs). The main purpose of this study is to identify those firms who use the discretion in a way to increase CFOs, and investigate their incentives. Unlike prior studies that only examine the firms who classify interest payments as financing activities, this study analyzes not only these firms of the prior studies but also the firms who classify the receipts of interest and dividends as investing activities. Further, the analysis of this study is confined only to those firms who are subject to credit ratings because CFOs are one of the most important factors that the credit-rating agencies consider in determining firms’ ratings. It is well known in the literature that earnings are superior to CFOs as a summary measure of firm performance (Dechow 1994). However, in specific situations CFOs could provide information that earnings can seldom do. For example, the payment of interests and the principal is ensured if the debt-issuing firms can generate a stable stream of cash flows from operations. Bond investors will thus consider CFOs more important than earnings in making decisions. Further, firms’ ability to generate an adequate amount of CFOs is taken into account as one of the most important factors when credit-rating agencies analyze firms’ credit-worthiness and assign ratings (Standard & Poor's 2008; Nice Rating 2015). This implies that firms who receive credit ratings will be concerned about how to present CFOs on the statement of cash flows. Specifically, we posit that firms with lower ratings will have stronger incentives to inflate CFOs with intent to receive good ratings. We thus first hypothesize that after the initial adoption of the IFRS, Korean firms with lower credit ratings are more likely to classify cash receipts and payments of interest and dividends in a way to boost CFOs. Furthermore, a downgrade below ‘investment grade’ causes severe economic consequences such as a violation of debt covenants or a failure to raise equity capital. Thus, we additionally hypothesize that the management of CFOs would be more pronounced for the firms who are in the proximity of the borderline between ‘investment’ and ‘non-investment’ grade. Out of 960 firms for the period from 2011 to 2014, we find 190 classifying interest payments as financing instead of operating activities. Included in the 190 firms are those that classify interest and dividend receipts as investing rather than operating activities, and it is not conceptually obvious whether these firms intentionally manage CFOs because such classification of interest and dividend receipts is not entirely consistent with maximizing CFOs. However, provided that the amount of interest payments is substantially larger than the interest and dividend received, we could presume that these firms may have intent to manage CFOs because the net effect of such classification works for increasing CFOs. Accordingly, the firms that are deemed to manage CFOs include the following two groups: 1) the firms that classify interest payments as financing, but interest and dividend receipts as operating activities, and 2) the firms that categorize all cash interest and dividend items as non-operating activities and for which the ratio of interest payments to the receipts of cash interest and dividend falls in the top quartile of the full sample (or alternatively the firms for which the ratio is greater than the median). The main results of the study are as follows. First, we find that firms with lower credit ratings are more likely to increase CFOs via the discretionary classification of receipts and payments of interest and dividends. In particular, we document that firms whose ratings fall on the border line between investment and non-investment grade have stronger incentives to increase CFOs. Interestingly, however, such empirical phenomena are not statistically significant for the firms who classify interest payments as financing activities: i.e., the firms that are deemed to manage CFOs in prior studies. Our result suggests that firms with intent to inflate CFOs would consider all cash items, not just cash interest payments, which managers have discretions under the IFRS to categorize on the cash flow statement. Our findings in the main analyses indirectly signify that firms with lower credit ratings manage CFOs in anticipation that they may receive better ratings by doing so than they would otherwise do. So, in an additional analysis, we investigate whether such anticipation is fulfilled ex post. We find to the contrary that the credit-rating agencies discount the ratings of the firms who engage in the management of CFOs. This result suggests that the credit-rating agencies see through the incentives of the firms who manage CFOs and respond negatively. It also indicates that the expectations of the CFOs-managing firms are not rational in light of the rational-expectations theory in which every economic agent’s expectations are fulfilled in equilibrium. We view our empirical result as an off-equilibrium phenomenon, which may be justified by the fact that the adoption of the IFRS is a first-time experience to Korean managers. As learning is gained by the market participants, this transitory off-equilibrium phenomenon will disappear.