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The Role of Accounting Conservatism in Firms’ Financial Decisions

45 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2010 Last revised: 18 Apr 2013

Jimmy Lee

Singapore Management University - School of Accountancy

Date Written: November 23, 2010


This paper investigates whether financial reporting conservatism is related to firms’ financial flexibility and their access to capital. If conservatism facilitates monitoring and governance by capital providers, they should be more willing to extend financing and increase firms’ access to capital. However, because conservatism leads to systematic understatement of net worth and weakens the appearance of firms’ balance sheet strength, it could also reduce firms’ access to capital. This study tests these two opposing views of the relationship between conservatism and firms’ financial flexibility. Results indicate that firms with greater reporting conservatism exhibit less flexibility in their corporate liquidity management, in their debt or equity issuance decisions, in the sensitivity of their investments to financing constraints and in their payout policies. Overall, results suggest that although firms enjoy lower debt contracting costs by reporting conservatively, they forgo some flexibility in future access to capital, and this affects their financial decisions.

Keywords: Accounting Conservatism, Financial Flexibility, Financial Constraints

JEL Classification: G31, G32, G35, M41

Suggested Citation

Lee, Jimmy, The Role of Accounting Conservatism in Firms’ Financial Decisions (November 23, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Jimmy Lee (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University - School of Accountancy ( email )

60 Stamford Road
Singapore, 178900
(65) 6808 5234 (Phone)

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