I examine whether firms strategically classify earnings components when reporting bad earnings news. Specifically, I examine whether firms reporting small earnings shortfalls allocate profits across their business segments in a manner that understates the future implications and within-firm drivers of disappointing earnings performance. I find that firms reporting small earnings shortfalls transfer profits toward segments in which profit rates are more informative for firm value and away from segments that operate in industries with higher frequencies of bad earnings news. In addition, I find that shortfall shifting initially tempers negative market responses to shortfall news, but pricing effects reverse in the months following shortfall announcements. My findings suggest that firms strategically classify earnings components when reporting small earnings shortfalls and that strategic classifications temporarily affect the pricing of shortfall news.
Data Availability: Data are available from public sources identified in this paper.