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Optimal Precision of Accounting Information in Debt Financing


  • Robert Gox
  • Alfred Wagenhofer


This paper studies qualitative characteristics of accounting systems that are used in debt financing. We consider a financially constrained firm that provides to lenders information on the value of assets that serve as collateral in a financing contract for a risky investment project. We find that the investor prefers an accounting system that provides biased signals about the value of assets. This bias adjusts the information content of the signals to maximize the probability of undertaking the project. Under fair value accounting, low book values are more precise measures of actual value than high book values, which is consistent with conditional conservatism. Next, we study accounting risk to study the effect of institutions that govern the financial reporting policy based on the optimal precision. We find that fair value measurement introduces greater accounting risk and is preferred by financially constrained firms to measurement at historical cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Gox & Alfred Wagenhofer, 2010. "Optimal Precision of Accounting Information in Debt Financing," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 579-602.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:19:y:2010:i:3:p:579-602 DOI: 10.1080/09638180.2010.496546

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Inder K. Khurana & Changjiang Wang, 2015. "Debt Maturity Structure and Accounting Conservatism," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1-2), pages 167-203, January.

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