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Accounting discretion of banks during a financial crisis

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  • Huizinga, Harry
  • Laeven, Luc

Abstract

This paper presents evidence of banks using accounting discretion to overstate the value of distressed assets. In particular, we show that the stock market applies far greater discounts to a bank’s real estate loans and mortgage-backed securities than are implicit in the book values of these assets, especially following the onset of the U.S. mortgage crisis. This suggests that bank balance sheets overvalue real estate related assets during economic slowdowns. Estimated discounts are smaller for distressed banks, as these banks derive relatively large benefits from the financial safety net to offset asset impairment. We also find that bank share prices, especially for banks with large exposures to mortgage-backed securities, react favorably to recent changes in accounting rules that relax fair value accounting. Banks with large exposures to mortgage-backed securities are also found to provision less for bad loans. Finally, we find that banks, and especially distressed banks, use discretion in the classification of mortgage-backed securities so as to inflate the book value of these securities. Our results provide several pieces of compelling evidence that banks’ balance sheets offer a distorted view of the financial health of the banks, especially for banks with large exposures to real estate loans and mortgage-backed securities, and suggest that recent changes that relax fair value accounting may further distort this picture.

Suggested Citation

  • Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2009. "Accounting discretion of banks during a financial crisis," CEPR Discussion Papers 7381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7381
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    Cited by:

    1. Yun Jeong Choi & Doyeon Kim & Taeyoon Sung, 2010. "Global Crisis, Exchange Rate Response, and Economic Performance: A Story of Two Countries in East Asia," Global Economic Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(1), pages 25-42.
    2. Mariathasan, Mike & Merrouche, Ouarda, 2014. "The manipulation of basel risk-weights," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 300-321.
    3. Kollmann, Robert & Zeugner, Stefan, 2012. "Leverage as a predictor for real activity and volatility," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1267-1283.
    4. repec:eee:jocaae:v:9:y:2013:i:2:p:221-236 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Kollmann, Robert & Enders, Zeno & Müller, Gernot J., 2011. "Global banking and international business cycles," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 407-426, April.
    6. Calomiris, Charles W. & Nissim, Doron, 2014. "Crisis-related shifts in the market valuation of banking activities," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 400-435.
    7. Beltratti, Andrea & Spear, Nasser & Szabo, Mark Daniel, 2013. "The Value Relevance and Timeliness of Write-downs During the Financial Crisis of 2007–2009," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 467-494.
    8. Nicolas Véron, 2011. "Keeping the promise of global accounting standards," Policy Briefs 575, Bruegel.
    9. Harald Hau & Sam Langfield & David Marques-Ibanez, 2013. "Bank ratings: what determines their quality?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 28(74), pages 289-333, April.
    10. Matej Marinc & Razvan Vlahu, 2011. "The Economic Perspective of Bank Bankruptcy Law," DNB Working Papers 310, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    11. Ceyla Pazarbasioglu & Luc Laeven & Oana M Nedelescu & Stijn Claessens & Fabian Valencia & Marc Dobler & Katharine Seal, 2011. "Crisis Management and Resolution; Early Lessons from the Financial Crisis," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 11/05, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Viral V. Acharya & Matthew Richardson, 2012. "Implications of the Dodd-Frank Act," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 1-38, October.
    13. Martin Knaup & Wolf Wagner, 2012. "Forward-Looking Tail Risk Exposures at U.S. Bank Holding Companies," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 42(1), pages 35-54, October.
    14. Dr. Rezarta Shkurti (Perri) & Dr. Brunilda Duraj, 2010. "The Assessment Of The Financial Soundness Of The Banking Sectors In Balkan Countries Using "Early Warning Indicators" - A Comparative Study With Policy Implications," Journal Articles, Center For Economic Analyses, pages 33-48, June.
    15. repec:kap:jfsres:v:52:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10693-016-0255-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (ed.), 2012. "Nach dem EU-Gipfel: Zeit für langfristige Lösungen nutzen," Special Reports / Sondergutachten, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, number 75379, April.
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    22. David Murphy, 2012. "Maintaining Confidence," FMG Special Papers sp216, Financial Markets Group.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    accounting standards; bank regulation; fair value accounting; financial crisis; mortgage-backed securities; real estate loans;

    JEL classification:

    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages

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