Loss underreporting and the auditing role of bank exams
Using a unique set of banking data containing both originally reported and subsequently revised financial variables, we study the incidence of adverse revisions to accounting statements. As might be expected, our findings indicate banks are more likely to underreport financial losses when their financial performance is substandard. In addition, we provide evidence that supervisory exams have an important role in uncovering financial problems and ensuring bank accounting statements reflect them. Specifically, our estimations point to a significant auditing effect, through which exams can lead to a restatement of financial results to reflect a greater degree of financial difficulty than originally reported. Interestingly, this auditing role of exams is evident not only for institutions previously identified as supervisory concerns, but also at highly rated banks, where financial problems are only just emerging. Because a banking downturn would increase not only the number of problem institutions requiring additional supervisory attention, but also the incidence of loss underreporting at highly rated banks, our findings stress the value of efforts to maintain or bolster the supervisory system's capacity to expand exam activity quickly and substantially.
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