Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?

43 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2009 Last revised: 14 Mar 2010

See all articles by Christian Laux

Christian Laux

Vienna University of Economics and Business; Vienna Graduate School of Finance (VGSF); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Christian Leuz

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

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2009

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

Laux, Christian and Leuz, Christian, Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis? (November 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15515. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1505839

Christian Laux

Vienna University of Economics and Business ( email )

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, Wien 1020
Austria

Vienna Graduate School of Finance (VGSF) ( email )

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, 1020
Austria

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

Christian Leuz (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-1996 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/christian.leuz/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Brussels
Belgium

HOME PAGE: http://www.ecgi.org

Center for Financial Studies (CFS) ( email )

Grüneburgplatz 1
Frankfurt am Main, 60323
Germany

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton Financial Institutions Center

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6218
United States

CESifo Research Network

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
102
Abstract Views
2,565
rank
397
PlumX Metrics