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How did Financial Reporting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?

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  • Mary Barth
  • Wayne Landsman

Abstract

We scrutinize the role financial reporting for fair values, asset securitizations, derivatives and loan loss provisioning played in the Financial Crisis. Because banks were at the center of the Financial Crisis, we focus our discussion and analysis on the effects of financial reporting by banks. We conclude fair value accounting played little or no role in the Financial Crisis. However, transparency of information associated with asset securitizations and derivatives likely was insufficient for investors to assess properly the values and riskiness of bank assets and liabilities. Although the FASB and IASB have taken laudable steps to improve disclosures relating to asset securitizations, in our view, the approach for accounting for securitizations in the IASB's Exposure Draft that would require banks to recognize whatever assets and liabilities they have after the securitization is executed better reflects the underlying economics of the securitization transaction. Regarding derivatives, we recommend disclosure of more disaggregated information, disclosure of the sensitivity of derivatives' fair values to changes in market risk variables, and implementing a risk-equivalence approach to enable investors to understand better the leverage inherent in derivatives. We also conclude that because the objectives of bank regulation and financial reporting differ, changes in financial reporting needed to improve transparency of information provided to the capital markets likely will not be identical to changes in bank regulations needed to strengthen the stability of the banking sector. We discuss how loan loss provisioning may have contributed to the Financial Crisis through its effects on procyclicality and on the effectiveness of market discipline. Accounting standard setters and bank regulators should find some common ground. However, it is the responsibility of bank regulators, not accounting standard setters, to ensure the stability of the financial system.

Suggested Citation

  • Mary Barth & Wayne Landsman, 2010. "How did Financial Reporting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 399-423.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:19:y:2010:i:3:p:399-423
    DOI: 10.1080/09638180.2010.498619
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:bla:joares:v:34:y:1996:i::p:1-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 1065-1188, November.
    3. Mary Barth, 2006. "Including estimates of the future in today's financial statements," BIS Working Papers 208, Bank for International Settlements.
    4. Guillaume Plantin & Haresh Sapra & Hyun Song Shin, 2008. "Marking-to-Market: Panacea or Pandora's Box?," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(2), pages 435-460, May.
    5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    6. Barth, Mary E. & Beaver, William H. & Landsman, Wayne R., 2001. "The relevance of the value relevance literature for financial accounting standard setting: another view," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-3), pages 77-104, September.
    7. Christian Laux & Christian Leuz, 2010. "Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(1), pages 93-118, Winter.
    8. Plantin, G. & Sapra, H. & Shin, H S., 2008. "Fair value accounting and financial stability," Financial Stability Review, Banque de France, issue 12, pages 85-94, October.
    9. Beatty, Anne & Chamberlain, Sandra & Magliolo, Joseph, 1996. "An empirical analysis of the economic implications of fair value accounting for investment securities," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-3), pages 43-77, October.
    10. Barth, Mary E. & Landsman, Wayne R. & Wahlen, James M., 1995. "Fair value accounting: Effects on banks' earnings volatility, regulatory capital, and value of contractual cash flows," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 577-605, June.
    11. Eccher, Elizabeth A. & Ramesh, K. & Thiagarajan, S. Ramu, 1996. "Fair value disclosures by bank holding companies," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-3), pages 79-117, October.
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