Article | Journal of Accounting Research | September 2011

Information Risk and Fair Value: An Examination of Equity Betas

by Edward J. Riedl and George Serafeim

Abstract

Using a sample of U.S. financial institutions, we exploit recent mandatory disclosures of financial instruments designated as fair value level 1, 2, and 3 to test whether greater information risk in financial instrument fair values leads to higher cost of capital. We derive an empirical model allowing asset-specific estimates of implied betas and find evidence that firms with greater exposure to level 3 financial assets exhibit higher betas relative to those designated as level 1 or level 2. We further find that this difference in implied betas across fair value designations is more pronounced for firms with ex ante lower-quality information environments: firms with lower analyst following, lower market capitalization, higher analyst forecast errors, or higher analyst forecast dispersion. Overall, the results are consistent with a higher cost of capital for more opaque financial assets, but also suggest that differences in firms' information environments can mitigate information risk across the fair value designations.

Keywords: Forecasting and Prediction; Assets; Cost of Capital; Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Corporate Disclosure; Information; Risk and Uncertainty; Value; United States;

Citation:

Riedl, Edward J., and George Serafeim. "Information Risk and Fair Value: An Examination of Equity Betas." Journal of Accounting Research 49, no. 4 (September 2011): 1083–1122.