Fair value accounting and litigation: The next wave of valuation risk

BVWireIssue #79-4
April 22, 2009

A wave of litigation against firms in the financial services sector dominated federal securities class action activity last year, reveals Securities Class Action Filings—2008: A Year in Review, an annual report prepared by the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse in cooperation with Cornerstone Research. A total of 210 federal securities class actions were filed in 2008, a 19% increase over the 176 such class actions in 2007, and a 9% increase over the average of 192 such class actions between 1997 and 2007.

Fair value accounting appears to be having a significant impact in a number of areas—among them accounting-related litigation and securities class actions. As Antonio Yanez, Jr., a litigation partner with Willkie Farr & Gallagher and a member of the national law firm’s Securities Litigation & Enforcement practice group, explains in his recent Business Valuation Update article, although the impact probably cannot be fully appreciated at this point, there are three key implications for litigation that stand out:

  1. Fair value accounting appears to be contributing to an increase in accounting-related litigation and securities class actions in particular.
  2. Fair value accounting is highly judgment-driven.
  3. Fair value accounting brings to a head the conflict between the evolution of financial reporting, on the one hand, and our system of litigation on the other.

For your own copy of Yanez’ article, visit our free resources page.

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