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Unintended consequences of changing accounting standards: the case of fair value accounting and mandatory dividends

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Abacus
Issue number3
Volume50
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)342-368
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

A growing body of literature investigates the interaction of changes in accounting standards with institutions such as investor protection laws and corporate governance mechanisms. We examine the unintended consequences of fair value accounting in determining mandated preferred dividends. We study the case of Russian energy conglomerate UES, which had a good corporate governance track record and a consistent dividend history. Following its adoption of fair value accounting, UES reported the highest quarterly profit in world corporate history, but it subsequently omitted dividends for all its shareholders. The case analysis suggests that the transitory nature of fair value adjustments and the interaction with the investment policy were important considerations in justifying the dividend omission. The reduction in preferred dividends was not offset by any capital gains, and led to a wealth transfer from preferred to ordinary shareholders. Thus, requiring the use of fair value accounting when determining the dividend distribution base can lead to unintended consequences and increase agency costs for minority shareholders.