An Examination of Long-Lived Asset Impairments
Posted: 18 Jan 2004
Prior research reveals that write-offs of long-lived assets are both large in magnitude and frequent in occurrence. Responding to calls for enhanced reporting of these items, the FASB issued SFAS 121, Accounting for the Impairment of Long-Lived Assets. However, its effect on the characteristics of reported write-offs remains unclear, as implementation requires inherently subjective estimates. Further, critics (including dissenting FASB board members and the SEC) question the standard's guidance. Motivated in part by this debate, this paper contrasts the characteristics of write-offs reported prior versus subsequent to the issuance of SFAS 121. Empirical results reveal that economic factors have a weaker association with write-offs reported after SFAS 121. This is consistent across macro, industry, and firm-specific variables. Results also indicate a higher association between write-offs and "big bath" reporting behavior after the standard's implementation, and that this "big bath" behavior more likely reflects opportunistic reporting by managers rather than the provision of their private information. These inferences are robust to a number of alternative specifications and variable definitions. Overall, the results suggest the reporting of write-offs under SFAS 121 has decreased in quality, consistent with criticisms of the standard.
Keywords: Impairments, write-offs, SFAS 121, long-lived assets, big bath reporting
JEL Classification: G12, M41, M43, M44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation