Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?
Vienna University of Economics and Business
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); Center for Financial Studies (CFS); University of Pennsylvania - Wharton Financial Institutions Center; CESifo Research Network
October 12, 2009
Chicago Booth Research Paper 09-38
ECGI - Finance Working Paper No. 266/2009
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Forthcoming
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 2008 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 writedowns of banks’ assets. If anything, empirical evidence to date points in the opposite direction, that is, towards overvaluation of bank assets.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: Mark-to-market accounting, Financial institutions, Liquidity, Financial crisis, Banks, Financial regulation, Procyclicality, Contagion
JEL Classification: G14, G15, G30, K22, M41, M42
Date posted: October 15, 2009 ; Last revised: December 15, 2009
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