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Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?

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  • Christian Laux
  • Christian Leuz

Abstract

The recent financial crisis has led to a major debate about fair-value accounting. Many critics have argued that fair-value accounting, often also called mark-to-market accounting, has significantly contributed to the financial crisis or, at least, exacerbated its severity. In this paper, we assess these arguments and examine the role of fair-value accounting in the financial crisis using descriptive data and empirical evidence. Based on our analysis, it is unlikely that fair-value accounting added to the severity of the current financial crisis in a major way. While there may have been downward spirals or asset-fire sales in certain markets, we find little evidence that these effects are the result of fair-value accounting. We also find little support for claims that fair-value accounting leads to excessive write-downs of banks' assets. If anything, empirical evidence to date points in the opposite direction, that is, towards overvaluation of bank assets.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Laux & Christian Leuz, 2009. "Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?," NBER Working Papers 15515, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15515
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F3 - International Economics - - International Finance
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G24 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting
    • M48 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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