This paper is Part II in a two‐part series on conservatism in accounting. Part I examined alternative explanations for conservatism in accounting and their implications for accounting regulators (SEC and FASB). Part II summarizes the empirical evidence on the existence of conservatism, conservatism's increase over time, and conservatism's alternative explanations. It also discusses opportunities for future research on conservatism.
The empirical literature uses a variety of conservatism measures in time‐series and cross‐sectional tests of contracting, shareholder litigation, taxation, and accounting regulation explanations for conservatism. The tests' results suggest the importance of all four explanations. Two non‐conservatism explanations—earnings management and the abandonment option—cannot individually or jointly explain the observed systematic understatement of net assets that is the hallmark of conservatism.
Researchers should note that accounting's effects on managerial behavior play a central role in the evolution of both accounting and financial reporting. Assessing the relevance of an accounting method to financial statement users' decisions requires assessing managers' abilities to use that method to manipulate accounting numbers and commit fraud. The evidence on conservatism suggests asymmetric verifiability is critical to constraining manipulation and fraud.