Accounting standard setters have become increasingly concerned with the perceived manipulation of financial statements afforded by the pooling‐of‐interests (pooling) method of accounting for corporate acquisitions. While different restrictions have been discussed, in September 1999 the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an Exposure Draft to eliminate the pooling method. This study provides a basis for evaluating restrictions on the pooling method by analyzing the financial statement effects on pooling acquisitions made by public corporations over the period 1992 through 1997. Using these acquisitions we (1) quantify the scope of the “pooling problem,” (2) estimate the financial statement repercussions of eliminating the pooling method, and (3) examine the effects of restricting pooling accounting to business combinations meeting various “merger of equals” restrictions.

While our analysis does not address whether restrictions on the pooling method will influence the nature or level of acquisition activity, the results indicate that the pooling method generates enormous amounts of unrecognized assets, across individual acquisitions, and in aggregate. In addition, our results suggest that recording and amortizing these assets generate significant balance sheet and income statement effects that vary with industry. Regarding restrictions on the pooling method, our analysis indicates that size restrictions would significantly reduce the number and value of pooling acquisitions and unrecognized assets generated by these acquisitions.

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