Lessons learned from the financial crisis – unveiling alternative approaches within valuation and accounting theory

Brosel Gerrit, Toll Martin, Zimmermann Mario/ Financial ReportingRiviste / Fascicolo: 4-2012

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, one of the most topical research questions is what caused it. We argue that one of the causes is the insufficient theoretical background employed in most valuation cases. Over the last six decades, there has been constructive debate between the proponents of the various valuation theories. However, the advocates of the Anglo-Saxon valuation theory seem unimpressed by the outcomes, claiming that there is no viable alternative to their preferred theory. Consequently, they cling to unrealistic assumptions like perfect capital markets and pure competition, and thereby deepen the financial crisis by excusing overvaluation. This research presents an alternative, functional business valuation, to assist business valuation. It indicates that knowledge of the functional theory and its application might help prevent similar undesirable developments in the future. Another cause of the financial crisis, tightly connected to the cause mentioned above, lays in the (theoretical) construct of “fair value accounting” and its undesirable pro-cyclical effects. Such effects are generally considered a matter of fact, but have rarely been linked to the neo-classical Anglo-Saxon valuation theory and its major shortcomings until now. A further factor promoting the financial crisis is the assertion that there are no useful alternatives to fair value accounting and its apotheosis to the “mark-to-market approach”. A look into accounting history reveals at least one applicable alternative approach – the “historical cost principle”.

Keywords: Financial crisis, business valuation, fair value accounting, historical cost accounting

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