Fair Value Accounting and Debt Contracting: Evidence from Adoption of SFAS 159
55 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2013 Last revised: 6 Apr 2016
Date Written: September 2015
We examine how fair value accounting affects debt contract design, specifically the use and definition of financial covenants in private loan contracts. Using SFAS 159 adoption as our setting, we find that a small but significant proportion of loans (14.5%) modify covenant definitions to exclude the effects of SFAS 159 fair values. Only a limited number of these modifications exclude assets elected at fair value (less than 7%), while all exclude liabilities elected at fair value. Notably, we document that covenant definition modification is unassociated with ex-ante fair value elections. We find that covenant definition modification positively varies with common incentive problems attributed to fair value accounting and negatively varies with benefits attributed to fair value accounting. Contrary to prior evidence, our results suggest that fair value accounting is not uniformly detrimental for debt contracting and that fair value adjustments are included when they are most likely to improve performance measurement.
Keywords: fair value accounting, debt contracting, SFAS 159, fair value liabilities
JEL Classification: M41, G32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation