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Private Debt and Timely Loss Recognition

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Abstract

In this study, we investigate whether private debt contracting provides incentives for borrowers to recognize economic losses earlier in accounting earnings. Focusing on the window around firms' issuances of private loans, we document that timely loss recognition significantly increases following an issuance. This effect is significantly stronger for debt contracts that include performance covenants acting as trip-wires when firm performance deteriorates. We also find that timely loss recognition is particularly used when writing debt contracts is hampered by uncertainty about a firm's future development. These findings are consistent with timely loss recognition being used to increase contract efficiency by facilitating state-contingent control allocation based on a borrower's performance over the loan term.

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... This effect might be stronger among firms that heavily rely on bank loans. German firms use loans as the most essential external financing source (e.g., Franke and Müller 2019). Although the traditional bank loan has lost importance in Germany over the last 10 years, the German financial market is still regarded as bank-based (Schmidt and Zwick 2018). ...
... In addition, the efficiency of debt contract clauses is increased through timely loss recognition when accounting numbers are used in debt contracts (Franke and Müller 2019). Moreover, Göx and Wagenhofer (2009) demonstrate that conservative accounting maximizes the ex-ante probability of obtaining financing. ...
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Despite the unquestionable influence of conservatism, disagreement remains about what economic demands lead to financial reporting conservatism. Research examining lenders’ demands for reporting conservatism has been questioned for ignoring conservative contract modifications. We document that these modifications exist but are not ubiquitous. We find contract modifications are more likely when agency costs are higher and litigation, tax and equity demands for conservatism are lower. However, we find a positive association between unexplained reporting conservatism and contract modifications, suggesting contractual modifications alone do not fulfill lenders’ demands for conservatism.
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This paper integrates elements from the theory of agency, the theory of property rights and the theory of finance to develop a theory of the ownership structure of the firm. We define the concept of agency costs, show its relationship to the ‘separation and control’ issue, investigate the nature of the agency costs generated by the existence of debt and outside equity, demonstrate who bears these costs and why, and investigate the Pareto optimality of their existence. We also provide a new definition of the firm, and show how our analysis of the factors influencing the creation and issuance of debt and equity claims is a special case of the supply side of the completeness of markets problem.The directors of such [joint-stock] companies, however, being the managers rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected, that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery frequently watch over their own. Like the stewards of a rich man, they are apt to consider attention to small matters as not for their master's honour, and very easily give themselves a dispensation from having it. Negligence and profusion, therefore, must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company.Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776, Cannan Edition(Modern Library, New York, 1937) p. 700.
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Many corporate assets, particularly growth opportunities, can be viewed as call options. The value of such ‘real options’ depends on discretionary future investment by the firm. Issuing risky debt reduces the present market value of a firm holding real options by inducing a suboptimal investment strategy or by forcing the firm and its creditors to bear the costs of avoiding the suboptimal strategy. The paper predicts that corporate borrowing is inversely related to the proportion of market value accounted for by real options. It also rationalizes other aspects of corporate borrowing behavior, for example the practice of matching maturities of assets and debt liabilities.
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Theories based on incomplete contracting suggest that small organizations have a comparative advantage in activities that make extensive use of “soft” information. We provide evidence consistent with small banks being better able to collect and act on soft information than large banks. In particular, large banks are less willing to lend to informationally “difficult” credits, such as firms with no financial records. Moreover, after controlling for the endogeneity of bank-firm matching, we find that large banks lend at a greater distance, interact more impersonally with their borrowers, have shorter and less exclusive relationships, and do not alleviate credit constraints as effectively.
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This paper examines accounting changes, costs of default, and accounting-based covenants violated by 130 firms reporting violations in annual reports. I find that managers of firms approaching default respond with income-increasing accounting changes and that the default costs imposed by lenders and the accounting flexibility available to managers are important determinants of managers' accounting responses. I also document that private lending agreements are the first violated, that net worth and working capital restrictions are the most frequently violated restrictions, and that in 52 percent of the cases lenders require concessions from borrowers to resolve default.
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I explore which firm and loan characteristics decrease or exacerbate information asymmetry in the trading of private debt. I find that loans of public firms, loans with an available credit rating, loans of profit firms and loans syndicated by more reputable arrangers are traded at lower bid–ask spreads, while revolvers, distressed loans and loans issued by institutional investors are associated with higher information costs. I also find that timely loss recognition reduces the bid–ask spread. This finding suggests that conservative reporting decreases information asymmetry regarding a borrower and increases the efficiency of the secondary trading of debt securities.
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Negotiable certificates of deposit (CD's) trade in the capital market in competition with other securities like commercial paper and bankers' acceptances. If CD's must pay lenders competitive monetary interest, the reserve tax on CD's is borne by bank borrowers. Viability of the tax means there must be something special about bank loans that makes some borrowers willing to pay higher interest rates than those on other securities of equivalent risk. Moreover, there must be something special about banks that prevents other intermediaries from competing to assure that it never pays to finance loans with CD's.
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ABSTRACT Using a sample of over 5,000 debt issues, I test whether firms with more extensive use of covenants in their public debt contracts exhibit timelier recognition of economic losses in accounting earnings. Covenants govern the transfer of decision-making and control rights from shareholders to bondholders when a company approaches financial distress and thereby limit managers' abilities to expropriate bondholder wealth. Covenants are expected to constrain managerial opportunism, however, only if the accounting system recognizes economic losses in earnings in a timely fashion. Thus, the demand for timely loss recognition should increase with a contract's reliance on covenants. Consistent with this conjecture, I find evidence that reliance on covenants in public debt contracts is positively associated with the degree of timely loss recognition. I also find evidence that the presence of prior private debt mitigates this relationship. Copyright (c), University of Chicago on behalf of the Accounting Research Center, 2009.
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We investigate if timely loss recognition is associated with acquisition-investment decisions. Using a Basu (1997) piece-wise linear regression model, we find that firms with more timely incorporation of economic losses into earnings make more profitable acquisitions, measured by the bidder's announcement returns and by changes in post-acquisition operating performance. These firms are also less likely to make post-acquisition divestitures (consistent with better ex ante investment decisions), but act more quickly to divest. We also find that the positive association between timely loss recognition and acquisition profitability is more pronounced for firms with higher ex ante agency costs.
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This paper explores the determinants of corporate failure and the pricing of financially distressed stocks using US data over the period 1963 to 2003. Firms with higher leverage, lower profitability, lower market capitalization, lower past stock returns, more volatile past stock returns, lower cash holdings, higher market-book ratios, and lower prices per share are more likely to file for bankruptcy, be delisted, or receive a D rating. When predicting failure at longer horizons, the most persistent firm characteristics, market capitalization, the market-book ratio, and equity volatility become relatively more significant. Our model captures much of the time variation in the aggregate failure rate. Since 1981, financially distressed stocks have delivered anomalously low returns. They have lower returns but much higher standard deviations, market betas, and loadings on value and small-cap risk factors than stocks with a low risk of failure. These patterns hold in all size quintiles but are particularly strong in smaller stocks. They are inconsistent with the conjecture that the value and size effects are compensation for the risk of financial distress.
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We analyze incomplete long-term financial contracts between an entrepreneur with no initial wealth and a wealthy investor. Both agents have potentially conflicting objectives since the entrepreneur cares about both pecuniary and non-pecuniary returns from the project while the investor is only concerned about monetary returns. We address the questions of (i) whether and how the initial contract can be structured in such a way as to bring about a perfect coincidence of objectives between both agents (ii) when the initial contract cannot achieve this coincidence of objectives how should control rights be allocated to achieve efficiency? One of the main results of our analysis concerns the optimality properties of the (contingent) control allocation induced by standard debt financing.
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ABSTRACT We investigate how both the ownership structure and explicit contractual structure of syndicated loan deals are shaped by the debt-contracting value (DCV) of borrowers' accounting information. DCV captures the inherent ability of firms' accounting numbers to capture credit quality deterioration in a timely fashion. We hypothesize and document that when a borrower's accounting information possesses higher DCV, information asymmetry between the lead arranger and other syndicate participants is lower, allowing lead arrangers to hold a smaller proportion of new loan deals. Further, we document that the influence of DCV on the proportion of the loan retained is conditional on the lead arranger's reputation, the existence of a credit rating, and the lead arranger's previous relationships with the same borrower. Finally, we find that when loans include performance pricing provisions, the likelihood that the single performance measure used is an accounting ratio, rather than a credit rating, is increasing in DCV. Copyright University of Chicago on behalf of the Institute of Professional Accounting, 2008.
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This paper asks how well different organizational structures perform in terms of generating information about investment projects and allocating capital to these projects. A decentralized approach-with small, single-manager firms-is most likely to be attractive when information about projects is "soft" and cannot be credibly transmitted. In contrast, large hierarchies perform better when information can be costlessly "hardened" and passed along inside the firm. The model can be used to think about the consequences of consolidation in the banking industry, particularly the documented tendency for mergers to lead to declines in small-business lending. Copyright The American Finance Association 2002.
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Recent studies argue that the spread-adjusted Taylor rule (STR), which includes a response to the credit spread, replicates monetary policy in the United State. We show (1) STR is a theoretically optimal monetary policy under heterogeneous loan interest rate contracts in both discretionay and commitment monetary policies, (2) however, the optimal response to the credit spread is ambiguous given the financial market structure in theoretically derived STR, and (3) there, a commitment policy is effective in narrowing the credit spread when the central bank hits the zero lower bound constraint of the policy rate.
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Conservatism is interpreted to mean that accountants more frequently report current "bad news" about future cash flows in contemporaneous earnings than current "good news." Thus, earnings reported under GAAP should be more timely in reporting "bad news" about future cash flows than "good news." This paper, using the firm's stock return as a measure of news, shows that the contemporaneous association between earnings and negative returns is two to five times as large as the contemporaneous association between earnings and positive returns. It is also shown that the greater timeliness of earnings relative to cash flow measures is largely due to a greater sensitivity to concurrent negative returns. This result is consistent with accountants recording accruals conservatively. Another implication of conservatism is that negative earnings surprises are likely to be less persistent than positive earnings surprises, because earnings reports more bad news concurrently than good news, with the latter being spread over several periods. This is shown to be true empirically. It is predicted and found that earnings response coefficients are higher for positive earnings changes than for negative earnings changes, which is consistent with the market correcting for the difference in persistence in conservatively determined earnings. It is also found that the sensitivity of earnings to negative returns has more than quadrupled since 1980, while the sensitivity of earnings to negative returns has declined by two-thirds, suggesting that earnings measurement has become more conservative. Increases in accounting conservatism are found to be correlated with increases in auditor liability, but no causal inferences are drawn.