Big Bath

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DEFINITION of 'Big Bath'

The strategy of manipulating a company's income statement to make poor results look even worse. The big bath is often implemented in a bad year to enhance artificially next year's earnings. The big rise in earnings might result in a larger bonus for executives. New CEOs sometimes use the big bath so they can blame the company's poor performance on the previous CEO and take credit for the next year's improvements.

BREAKING DOWN 'Big Bath'

For example, if a CEO concludes that the minimum earnings targets can't be made in a given year, he/she will have an incentive to move earnings from the present to the future since the CEO's compensation doesn't change regardless if he/she misses the targets by a little or a lot. By shifting profits forward - by prepaying expenses, taking write-offs and/or delaying the realization of revenues - the CEO increases the chances of getting a large bonus the following year.

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