Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?

Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis? Abstract The recent financial crisis has led to a major debate about fair-value accounting. Many critics have argued that fair-value accounting, often also called mark-to-market accounting, has significantly contributed to the financial crisis or, at least, exacerbated its severity. In this paper, we assess these arguments and examine the role of fair-value accounting in the financial crisis using descriptive data and empirical evidence. Based on our analysis, it is unlikely that fair-value accounting added to the severity of the 2008 financial crisis in a major way. While there may have been downward spirals or asset-fire sales in certain markets, we find little evidence that these effects are the result of fair-value accounting. We also find little support for claims that fair-value accounting leads to excessive write-downs of banks' assets. If anything, empirical evidence to date points in the opposite direction, that is, toward the overvaluation of bank assets during the crisis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Economic Perspectives American Economic Association

Did Fair-Value Accounting Contribute to the Financial Crisis?

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Publisher
American Economic Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2010 by the American Economic Association
Subject
Symposia
ISSN
0895-3309
DOI
10.1257/jep.24.1.93
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract The recent financial crisis has led to a major debate about fair-value accounting. Many critics have argued that fair-value accounting, often also called mark-to-market accounting, has significantly contributed to the financial crisis or, at least, exacerbated its severity. In this paper, we assess these arguments and examine the role of fair-value accounting in the financial crisis using descriptive data and empirical evidence. Based on our analysis, it is unlikely that fair-value accounting added to the severity of the 2008 financial crisis in a major way. While there may have been downward spirals or asset-fire sales in certain markets, we find little evidence that these effects are the result of fair-value accounting. We also find little support for claims that fair-value accounting leads to excessive write-downs of banks' assets. If anything, empirical evidence to date points in the opposite direction, that is, toward the overvaluation of bank assets during the crisis.

Journal

Journal of Economic PerspectivesAmerican Economic Association

Published: Feb 1, 2010

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