The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. With nearly 300 released each year, working papers cover a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper shows that banks use accounting discretion to overstate the value of distressed assets. Banks' balance sheets overvalue real estate-related assets compared to the market value of these assets, especially during the U.S. mortgage crisis. Share prices of banks with large exposure to mortgage-backed securities also react favorably to recent changes in accounting rules that relax fair-value accounting, and these banks provision less for bad loans. Furthermore, distressed banks use discretion in the classification of mortgage-backed securities to inflate their books. Our results indicate that banks' balance sheets offer a distorted view of the financial health of the banks.