SYNOPSIS

Under the fair value option, SFAS No. 159, firms have full discretion over electing to report specified financial instruments at fair value on a contract-by-contract basis. Building on Henry's (2009) study of early adopting banks, this paper examines to what extent firms' election of instruments benefited their current or future earnings. Our sample comprises the constituents of the S&P 1500 Index for the first quarters of fiscal years 2007 and 2008. Expanding the sample across industries and over time allows us to obtain a more complete picture of the adoption of the fair value option. We identify 72 adopters, two-thirds of which are not commercial banks. We do not find evidence of systematic opportunistic election of the fair value option. In only a handful of cases—concentrated among early adopters with an earnings shortfall—did firms experience a significant improvement in current or future earnings that casts doubt on whether their adoption was keeping with the intent and spirit of the standard.

Data Availability: The list of adopters used in this paper is available from the authors upon request.

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