The Information Content of Goodwill Impairments and the Adoption of SFAS 142

45 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2007

See all articles by Daniel A. Bens

Daniel A. Bens


Wendy Heltzer

DePaul University - College of Commerce

Benjamin Segal

Fordham University; Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Date Written: July 18, 2007


As U.S. accounting standard setters increasingly favor a fair value based regime, critics claim that the abandonment of a historical cost based system may produce unintended consequences, such as increased bias and manipulation in financial reports. In this paper, we present exploratory evidence to this debate by examining whether changing the intangible asset impairment trigger to a fair value test, as codified in Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 142: Goodwill and Other Intangibles Assets (SFAS 142), altered the information content of goodwill write-offs.

We document a negative and significant stock market reaction to unexpected goodwill write-offs. On a cross-sectional basis, we find that the market reaction is attenuated for firms with low information asymmetry (our proxy is a high analyst following) and for firms who find it relatively costly to implement impairment tests (our proxy is the inverse of firm size). We find no variation in market reaction based on firm complexity (our proxy is the number of firm segments).

The negative reaction for the high information asymmetry firms does not persist following the adoption of SFAS 142. The latter result is consistent with SFAS 142 critics' claims that fair value methods are difficult to implement reliably, and thus can reduce the information content of accounting reports.

Keywords: Fair value accounting, Goodwill, Impairments, SFAS 142, Write-offs

JEL Classification: G34, M41, M44, D82, M48

Suggested Citation

Bens, Daniel A. and Heltzer, Wendy and Segal, Benjamin, The Information Content of Goodwill Impairments and the Adoption of SFAS 142 (July 18, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel A. Bens (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Wendy Heltzer

DePaul University - College of Commerce ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States

Benjamin Segal

Fordham University ( email )

113 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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