Decision Usefulness of the Equity Method of Accounting
I examine the decision usefulness of the equity method of accounting from two perspectives. First, I examine the value relevance of information provided under the equity method relative to the value relevance of information resulting from measuring investments in affiliates at fair value. For a sample of 221 U.S. investors with publicly-traded affiliates during 1993-2011, I find that balance sheet measures of investments in publicly-traded affiliates provided under the equity method are associated with investors' stock prices, but income from these affiliates recognized under the equity method is not associated with investors' stock prices. In addition, fair value balance sheet and income measures of investments in publicly-traded affiliates are incrementally associated with investors' stock prices after controlling for information provided under the equity method. The incremental value relevance of fair value measures for investments in publicly-traded affiliates exists for both investments identified as held for sale and those identified as strategic, with no evidence that the incremental value relevance is higher (lower) for investments identified as held for sale (strategic). This result suggests that the 2010 and 2013 proposals by the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board to distinguish between investments in affiliates based on management's intended method of value realization are not supported by differences in the relative value relevance of fair value measures for these types of investments. Second, I evaluate whether equity method investors use their significant influence to manage income reported under the equity method. For a sample of 202 U.S. firms from 1993-2011, I find that signed discretionary accruals of affiliates are higher when income from affiliates allows investors to meet earnings targets. This result is consistent with equity method investors influencing the financial reporting of affiliates to achieve earnings targets.
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