The worth of fair value accounting: dissonance between users and standard setters

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    Abstract

    Investors and analysts are designated as the primary users of financial reports by standard setters, yet we know very little about their use of accounting information and about their relationship with standard setters. This paper explores how investors and analysts evaluate the usefulness of fair values to their work. Standard setters typically presume that investors and analysts view accounting as a practice of valuation and, therefore, favor the greater use of fair value measurement. However, using interview evidence, it is shown here that investors and analysts expect accounting to provide them with insights into the performance of a business, and are quite cautious about the limits of using fair values in financial reports. Overall, the paper contributes to a better understanding of the relationship between accounting and its users. It adds specifically to research which has analyzed the disconnect between users and standard setters in terms of standard setters ignoring user needs (Young 2006), and in terms of users being indifferent about, or uncritical of, outcomes of standard-setting processes (Durocher, Fortin, and Cote 2007; Durocher and Gendron 2011). The paper suggests a re-theorization of the disconnect between the two groups that involves thinking away from tension, or blame. Drawing on the work of David Stark (2009), the situation observed is conceptualized as one of “dissonance,” where the different ways of evaluating fair values coexist without being involved in a fierce contest. That is, even though the principles of valuation and performance differ, this difference does not lead to open disagreement and political lobbying from investors and analysts. Consequences of this dissonance to our understandings of the (absence of) worth of fair values in capital markets are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1297-1331
    JournalContemporary Accounting Research
    Volume35
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2018

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