Does Recognition versus Disclosure Affect Debt Contracting? Evidence from SFAS 158
Forthcoming, The Accounting Review
54 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2019 Last revised: 10 Aug 2023
Date Written: June 20, 2022
We study how recognition versus disclosure affects pricing and control allocation in debt contracting. We examine whether loan spreads and the use of covenants changed around SFAS 158 adoption, which required recognition of previously disclosed pension liabilities. We find that pension underfunding is positively associated with loan spreads and negatively associated with the use of covenants prior to the adoption of SFAS 158. This is consistent with lenders viewing disclosed pension underfunding as insufficiently reliable for inclusion in covenants and instead pricing the risk associated with underfunding. Post-SFAS 158, pension underfunding is associated with lower spreads and a higher likelihood of using covenants relative to the pre-period. We find no change in the use of covenants unaffected by the accounting standard change or credit risk associated with underfunding post-SFAS 158. Collectively, the evidence is most consistent with recognition improving the reliability of accounting information for control allocation in debt contracting.
Keywords: disclosure, recognition, reliability, processing costs, pensions, debt contracting
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