Financial Statement Complexity and Bank Lending
53 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2018 Last revised: 2 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 22, 2018
Recent studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that investors struggle to process complex financial reports. Existing theory and evidence demonstrate that banks not only have unique advantages in acquiring information, relative to equity and public debt investors, but also can impose contractual terms to mitigate information frictions. We investigate whether financial statement complexity is associated with firms' reliance on bank financing and with the terms of bank loans (i.e., the amount and rate of the loan, along with covenants and collateral). We focus on two dimensions of complexity that capture the volume and presentation of financial information: 10-K length and readability. We find that complexity is positively associated both with firms' reliance on bank financing and with banks increasing their level of screening, rationing their credit supply, and imposing tighter covenants. Our results suggest that banks continue to play their role as informed capital providers in a changing economy, characterized by growing financial statement complexity and innovations in banks' business models.
Keywords: complexity, financial statements, bank lending, debt contracting
JEL Classification: M41, G14, G21, G32, D82
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