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Accounting discretion of banks during a financial crisis


  • Luc Laeven
  • Harry Huizinga


This paper shows that banks use accounting discretion to overstate the value of distressed assets. Banks' balance sheets overvalue real estate-related assets compared to the market value of these assets, especially during the U.S. mortgage crisis. Share prices of banks with large exposure to mortgage-backed securities also react favorably to recent changes in accounting rules that relax fair-value accounting, and these banks provision less for bad loans. Furthermore, distressed banks use discretion in the classification of mortgage-backed securities to inflate their books. Our results indicate that banks' balance sheets offer a distorted view of the financial health of the banks.

Suggested Citation

  • Luc Laeven & Harry Huizinga, 2009. "Accounting discretion of banks during a financial crisis," IMF Working Papers 09/207, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:09/207

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mike Mariathasan & Ouarda Merrouche, 2012. "The Manipulation of Basel Risk-Weights. Evidence from 2007-10," Economics Series Working Papers 621, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Nicolas Véron, 2011. "Keeping the promise of global accounting standards," Policy Briefs 575, Bruegel.
    7. 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.
    8. Matej Marinc & Razvan Vlahu, 2011. "The Economic Perspective of Bank Bankruptcy Law," DNB Working Papers 310, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. repec:kap:jfsres:v:52:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10693-016-0255-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. 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.
    15. European Commission, 2010. "Tax Policy after the Crisis: Monitoring Tax Revenues and Tax Reforms in EU Member States 2010 Report," Taxation Papers 24, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
    16. Freixas, Xavier & Laux, Christian, 2011. "Disclosure, transparency, and market discipline," CFS Working Paper Series 2011/11, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    17. Luc Laeven, 2011. "Banking Crises: A Review," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 17-40, December.
    18. David Murphy, 2012. "Maintaining Confidence," FMG Special Papers sp216, Financial Markets Group.

    More about this item


    Financial crisis; Banks; Asset management; Asset prices; Bank regulations; Bank accounting; Accounting standards; Liquidity management; Investment; Housing prices; Real estate prices; Key bank regulation; fair value accounting; corporate disclosure; real estate; real estate loans; tier 1 capital; bank assets; real estate loan;

    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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