Fair value accounting damaged by financial crisis, survey says

Financial professionals believe that the tumultuous financial marketplace has damaged the effectiveness of Fair Value Accounting (FVA), also known as mark-to-market accounting, according to a recent survey released by Valuation Research Corp., a global financial advisory based in Milwaukee.

"Respondents to this survey came down hard on Fair Value Accounting,” said P. J. Patel, CFA, senior  vice president of Valuation Research Corp.  “While in less volatile times, Fair Value Accounting has improved transparency, in unusual times like we’ve seen, FVA becomes more difficult to implement and understand.”

Mark-to-market accounting or FVA is an accounting rule requiring companies to reflect an asset or a liability’s current market value on their balance sheets.

Market turmoil has negated FVA’s validity, according to 58 percent of the survey respondents. Of those who believed FVA was flawed and potentially not valid during market turmoil, almost 34% suggested a temporary return to historical cost accounting as an alternative.

Financial professionals are least confident on the status of Level 3 assets held by banks  – those assets which are not publicly traded and do not have easily accessible values. Forty percent of those surveyed felt that banks’ Level 3 asset values could be off by as much as 30 percent, while 44 percent felt those assets might be 10 percent or less off of valuation. Only 12 percent of those surveyed felt Level 3 values were within five percent or less.

Level 3 assets held by hedge funds and private equity firms were viewed even more critically by those surveyed – 36 percent believed hedge fund and private equity values were only within an accuracy of 10 percent and 49 percent thought those values were as much as 30 percent off.

“The survey found there is some uncertainty in the ability of banks, private equity firms and hedge funds to accurately report the value of their own level 3 assets,” Patel said. 

Valuation Research Corp.’s survey was able to tap into financial professionals in public accounting, investment banking, private equity, hedge fund, law, real estate, consulting, valuation and fund administration firms.

While those responded were not confident in banks, hedge funds and private equity firms’ abilities to determine the value of their Level 3 assets, they were more confident of the likelihood in accurately determining a business’ value in today’s market.

Sixty-one percent thought an owner or purchaser working together with an external valuation firm provided the best valuation. Nineteen percent of respondents believed the owner/purchaser working on their own was best, and another 19 percent said an external valuation firm working on their own was best.

Valuation Research Corp. provides corporate transaction opinions, mergers and acquisitions and corporate advisory services, tax compliance and planning services, and related services. The Milwaukee-based firm has offices in Boston, New York, Chicago, Princeton, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Tampa in the United States. and additional offices in Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, Australia, Mexico, Hong Kong, Brazil and England.


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