Consequences of Voluntary and Mandatory Fair Value Accounting: Evidence Surrounding IFRS Adoption in the EU Real Estate Industry

by Karl A. Muller III, Edward J. Riedl & Thorsten Sellhorn

Overview — The required adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in the European Union, effective January 1, 2005, resulted in a number of significant changes in how firms report their financial results. Mandatory IFRS adoption has been criticized for both the flexibility afforded under the standards and the encroachment of the fair value paradigm. Specifically, common accounting standards alone may not be sufficient to provide the benefits of common accounting practices. This paper examines the causes and consequences of different forms of fair value disclosures for tangible long-lived assets. Insights may assist standard setters and users in understanding the factors influencing firms' current and future accounting choices, and may also interest U.S. standard setters and managers of the almost 250 publicly traded U.S. real estate firms. Key concepts include:

  • Investors believe that investment property fair values are reliable enough to warrant a significantly lower cost of capital for those firms providing them.
  • The demand for fair value information (reflected in a firm's ownership structure) and the firm's commitment to reporting transparency is associated with the decision to provide fair values.
  • Critically, adoption of this fair value standard under IFRS, in and of itself, is insufficient to fully overcome previous perceived reporting differences across these firms. This is consistent with investors perceiving that property firms across EU countries vary in how they implement this standard.

Author Abstract

We examine the causes and consequences of European real estate firms' decisions to provide investment property fair values prior to the required disclosure of this information under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). We find evidence that investor demand for fair value information-reflected in more dispersed ownership-and a firm's commitment to transparency increase the likelihood of providing fair values prior to their required provision under International Accounting Standard 40 - Investment Property. We also find that firms not providing these fair values face higher information asymmetry. However, we fail to find that the relatively higher information asymmetry was reduced following mandatory adoption of IFRS. Rather, we find that differences in information asymmetry largely remain. Taken together, this evidence suggests that common adoption of fair value accounting due to the mandatory adoption of IFRS does not necessarily level the informational playing field.

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