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The Information Content of Commercial Banks' Fair Value Disclosures of Loans under SFAS 107


This dissertation utilizes empirical methods to shed light on the current debate over whether to adopt fair value accounting for loans held for long term. Proponents of fair valuing loans argue that reporting loans at their fair values enhances the overall transparency of financial reporting. In contrast, opponents are against applying fair value accounting to loans because fair values cannot be measured reliably in the case of loans held for long term. Therefore, the key question here is whether loan fair values are sufficiently reliable to provide more relevant and transparent information compared to traditional measurements of loans.

To explore this, I compare fair value disclosures of loans under Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 107 (SFAS 107), Disclosures about Fair Value of Financial Instruments, with traditional measurements of loans reported on balance sheets. More specifically, this study asks two research questions; (i) whether loan fair values provide more relevant information about future loan losses compared to traditional measurements of loans and (ii) whether banks intentionally manage their fair value estimates of loans when they are financially distressed.

SFAS 107 mandates the disclosure of fair values for financial instruments with the objective of providing investors with more relevant information about firms' future cash flows. However, the results show that fair value measurements of loans explained variation in future loan losses, which capture cash flows from loans, less than traditional cost-based measurements of loans. In addition, I find evidence suggesting that financially distressed banks overstated the fair values of their loan portfolios and that fair values of loans in the aggregate lagged considerably behind the market values of loans during the recent credit crisis. Overall, my results suggest that fair value disclosures in bank loan portfolios contain relatively less information about future cash flows because they are measured unreliably and they suffer from a similar lack of timeliness as reported carrying values.

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