Managerial Discretion to Delay the Recognition of Goodwill Impairment: The Role of Enforcement
Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Volume 48, Issue 1-2, pp. 26-69, 2021
55 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2020 Last revised: 1 Mar 2021
Date Written: October 3, 2020
Under IFRS, managers can use two approaches to increase the estimated fair value of goodwill in order to justify not recognizing impairment: (1) make overly optimistic valuation assumptions, and (2) increase future cash flow forecasts by inflating current cash flows. Because enforcement constrains the use of optimistic valuation assumptions, we hypothesize that enforcement influences the relative use of these two choices. We test this hypothesis by comparing a sample of 1,958 firms from 36 countries that are likely to delay recognizing goodwill impairment (suspect firms) to a sample of control firms. First, we find that firms in high enforcement countries use a higher discount rate to test goodwill for impairment than firms in low enforcement countries. We also find a more positive association between discount rate and upward cash flow management for suspect firms than for control firms. This result is consistent with suspect firms substituting optimistic valuation assumptions with inflated current cash flows. Second, we find that, relative to control firms, suspect firms exhibit higher upward cash flow management in high enforcement countries than in low enforcement countries. Third, we show that suspect firms in high enforcement countries are more likely to eventually impair goodwill.
Keywords: Goodwill impairment, enforcement, cash flow management, valuation assumptions
JEL Classification: M41, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation