Accounting Conservatism and the Consequences of Covenant Violations
Recent studies document that covenant violations intensify the conflicts of interest between lenders and borrowers, and lead to greater restrictions on borrowing firms’ financing and investment activities (Chava and Roberts, 2008; Roberts and Sufi, 2009b). Motivated by this literature, I investigate whether accounting conservatism, specifically conditional conservatism, mitigates the adverse consequences of debt covenant violations. I argue that conservative reporting can potentially ameliorate the conflicts of interest between lenders and borrowers. Therefore, I predict that accounting conservatism reduces the adverse impact of covenant violations on borrowers’ financing and investing activities and exhibits a positive association with operating and stock market performance after covenant violations. I obtain a sample of 312 violating and 5,327 non-violating firm-quarters observations from U.S. non-financial public firms during the period of 1998 – 2007 to test my hypotheses. Using three measures of conditional conservatism and a composite measure of the three individual measures, I find that the degree of increase in borrowing firms’ conservative reporting between loan initiation and covenant violation is associated with smaller reductions in firms’ financing and investing activities in the post-violation period. Furthermore, my analyses provide some evidence that firms that increase conservative reporting exhibit better stock market performance, implying that conservative reporting is beneficial for shareholders after covenant violations. I find no evidence that increased accounting conservatism affects operating performance after covenant violations. My results continue to hold after controlling for pre-contracting unconditional and conditional conservatism. Overall, my dissertation provides evidence that conservative accounting practices followed by borrowing firms ease the adverse consequences of debt covenant violations. My dissertation contributes to the emerging literature on the effects of accounting quality on re-contracting outcomes after covenant violations.