Is Historical Cost Accounting a Panacea? Market Stress, Incentive Distortions, and Gains Trading
This paper explores the trading incentives of financial institutions induced by the interaction between regulatory accounting rules and capital requirements by investigating insurance companies’ trading behavior during the recent financial crisis. According to insurance regulation, life insurers have a greater degree of flexibility to hold downgraded instruments at historical cost, whereas property and casualty insurers are forced to re-mark many of their downgraded securities to market prices. Using firm-level insurance company transaction and position data, we study the implications of this accounting difference, and document direct evidence of ‘gains trading’ associated with historical cost accounting during the financial crisis. When faced with severe downgrades among their holdings in asset-backed securities (ABS), life insurers largely continue to hold the downgraded securities at historical cost and instead selectively sell their corporate bond holdings with the highest unrealized gains. This is particularly true for insurers facing regulatory capital constraints and with high ABS exposures. This behavior is largely absent among property and casualty insurers; they instead disproportionately sell their re-marked ABS holdings. Finally, we find that the gains trading among life companies induces significant price declines in the otherwise unrelated corporate bonds that happen to exhibit high unrealized gains.
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Nicolas Véron, 2008. "Fair value accounting is the wrong scapegoat for this crisis," Policy Contributions 19, Bruegel.
- 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.
- Joost Driessen, 2005. "Is Default Event Risk Priced in Corporate Bonds?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(1), pages 165-195.
- 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.
- Laux, Christian & Leuz, Christian, 2009. "Did fair-value accounting contribute to the financial crisis?," CFS Working Paper Series 2009/22, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
- Christian Laux & Christian Leuz, 2009. "Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?," NBER Working Papers 15515, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Sapra, Haresh, 2008. "Do accounting measurement regimes matter? A discussion of mark-to-market accounting and liquidity pricing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2-3), pages 379-387, August.
- 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, 05.
- Guillaume Plantin & Haresh Sapra & Hyun Shin, "undated". "Marking to Market: Panacea or Pandora’s Box ?," GSIA Working Papers 2005-E4, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
- Bernt Bratsberg & OddbjÃ¸rn Raaum & Knut RÃ¸ed, 2010. "When Minority Labor Migrants Meet the Welfare State," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 633-676, 07.
- Bratsberg, Bernt & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Røed, Knut, 2007. "When Minority Labor Migrants Meet the Welfare State," IZA Discussion Papers 2872, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Bernt Bratsberg & Oddbjorn Raaum & Knut Roed, 2008. "When Minority Labor Migrants Meet the Welfare State," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0817, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
- Nicole Boyson & Jean Helwege & Jan Jindra, 2014. "Crises, Liquidity Shocks, and Fire Sales at Commercial Banks," Financial Management, Financial Management Association International, vol. 43(4), pages 857-884, December.
- Ellul, Andrew & Jotikasthira, Chotibhak & Lundblad, Christian T., 2011. "Regulatory pressure and fire sales in the corporate bond market," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 596-620, September.
- Paul Schultz, 2001. "Corporate Bond Trading Costs: A Peek Behind the Curtain," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(2), pages 677-698, 04.
- Li Jin, 2006. "Capital Gains Tax Overhang and Price Pressure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(3), pages 1399-1431, 06.
- Heaton, John C. & Lucas, Deborah & McDonald, Robert L., 2010. "Is mark-to-market accounting destabilizing? Analysis and implications for policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 64-75, January.
- Jeremy C. Stein & Anil K. Kashyap, 2000. "What Do a Million Observations on Banks Say about the Transmission of Monetary Policy?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 407-428, June.
- Laux, Christian & Leuz, Christian, 2009. "The crisis of fair-value accounting: Making sense of the recent debate," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(6-7), pages 826-834, August.
- Laux, Christian & Leuz, Christian, 2009. "The crisis of fair value accounting: Making sense of the recent debate," CFS Working Paper Series 2009/09, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
- Edward C. Norton & Hua Wang & Chunrong Ai, 2004. "Computing interaction effects and standard errors in logit and probit models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 4(2), pages 154-167, June.
- Alberto Manconi & Massimo Massa & Ayako Yasuda, 2010. "The Behavior of Intoxicated Investors: The role of institutional investors in propagating the crisis of 2007-2008," NBER Working Papers 16191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Amy K. Edwards & Lawrence E. Harris & Michael S. Piwowar, 2007. "Corporate Bond Market Transaction Costs and Transparency," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(3), pages 1421-1451, 06.
- repec:bla:joares:v:36:y:1998:i::p:47-75 is not listed on IDEAS
- Darrell Duffie, 2010. "Presidential Address: Asset Price Dynamics with Slow-Moving Capital," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(4), pages 1237-1267, 08.
- Manconi, Alberto & Massa, Massimo & Yasuda, Ayako, 2010. "The Behavior of Intoxicated Investors: The Role of Institutional Investors in Propagating the Crisis of 2007-2008," Working Papers 10-22, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
- Jack Bao & Jun Pan & Jiang Wang, 2011. "The Illiquidity of Corporate Bonds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(3), pages 911-946, 06. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)