Value relevance and timeliness of transitional goodwill-impairment losses: Evidence from Canada
Focusing on transitional goodwill-impairment losses (losses) recorded by Canadian firms following the adoption of revised standards on purchased goodwill, we investigate the value relevance and timeliness of mandatory changes in accounting principles accounted for using the retroactive method. We find a negative relationship between reported losses and share price. Such a finding is consistent with investors perceiving losses as being sufficiently reliable measurements of a reduction in the value of goodwill to incorporate them in their valuation assessments. We find also that investors put a higher valuation weight on losses reported by firms that are expected to record a loss. In addition, we show that investors perceive that there are reduced opportunities for managerial discretion when there is a more effective audit committee. Finally, our results show that returns lead losses, i.e., that losses represent a catch-up adjustment to reflect the cumulative effect of using the impairment approach for the first time. Overall, our evidence supports U.S. standard setters' decision, through SFAS 154, to favour enhanced comparability and consistency over the potential costs of frequent restatements. Our results also show that fair-value measurements can be relevant even when the financial statement elements of interest are inherently bound to measurement error and subject to significant managerial discretion. They support the notion that reliability is about faithful representation, not precision.
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