The Changing Relevance of Accounting Information to Debt Holders over Time
52 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2012 Last revised: 18 Aug 2017
Date Written: June 10, 2016
A number of studies have examined the change over time in the information content of accounting numbers to stockholders. However, the stockholders’ perspective is not necessarily identical to that of debt holders. The two groups face different risks and rewards and thus their informational needs are not the same. We examine the change in the information content of accounting numbers over time from the debt holders’ perspective and hypothesize about the economic and reporting factors likely to affect this change. Using the association between accounting numbers and bond valuation and returns, we find that the information content to debt holders has increased over time. In contrast, but consistent with prior studies, we find that the information content to equity holders has declined. The results suggest that the increased information content to debt holders is related to changes in credit risk and to reporting factors such as the increase in reporting conservatism, the shift towards fair value accounting, and the increase in the frequency of losses. The findings contribute to the scant literature on the use of accounting information by debt holders and the extent to which financial reporting meets their unique needs.
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