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The Valuation Effect of Accounting Standard 158 on Firms with High and Low Financial Risk

  • Robert Houmes


  • Bob Boylan


  • Inga Chira


SFAS 158 mandated balance sheet disclosure of the funded status of firms’ Defined Benefit Pension Plan using the Projected Benefit Obligation (PBO) to estimate the pension liability. SFAS 158 caused a market phenomenon because the use of the PBO engendered dramatically higher estimates of pension liability and hence the perception of risk. Our work focuses on two aspects of this change in pension accounting: first, how will industry firms change their accounting strategy in light of the new rules, and second, how will firms’ stock prices be affected by the new allegedly better estimate of pension liability? Our research suggests that firms’ accounting strategies changed in that they use higher discount rates to estimate pension liability which offset the dramatic impact of using the PBO. In addition, we find that high financial risk firms’ tendencies to use higher discount rates increase with the firms’ leverage and decrease with liquidity. To test the market reaction we utilize standard event study methodology to investigate the effects of SFAS 158 on stock returns. Our findings suggest that firms with high (low) financial risk earn negative (positive) abnormal returns on and around relevant event dates preceding the implementation of SFAS 158. Copyright International Atlantic Economic Society 2011

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Article provided by Springer & International Atlantic Economic Society in its journal Atlantic Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 39 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 47-57

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Handle: RePEc:kap:atlecj:v:39:y:2011:i:1:p:47-57
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