Accrual Accounting in a Dynamic Agency Setting
41 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 1999
Date Written: January 1999
This paper examines the choice of asset valuation rules from a managerial control perspective. A manager creates value for a firm through his effort choice each period. To support its operating activities, the firm also engages in financing transactions such as credit sales to its customers. These financing transactions merely change the pattern of cash flows across periods but have no effect on the value of the firm. An optimal compensation scheme must therefore shield the manager from the risk associated with such transactions. If the firm operates an accrual accounting system in which receivables are capitalized at their fair values, we show that residual income eliminates this risk and provides an optimal performance measure. On the other hand, compensation schemes based only on realized cash flows can be optimal only under exceptional circumstances.
The paper also considers a setting in which the principal can observe not only the aggregate cash flow, but also the amount of realized bad debt losses each period. In this setting, an optimal compensation scheme must also shield the manager from the default risk associated with credit transactions. We demonstrate that this can be achieved if receivables are valued according to the allowance method that leads to a proper matching of sales revenues and bad debt expenses each period.
JEL Classification: M41, M46
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation