Journal of Accounting and Economics 33 (2002) 205–227
The importance of accounting changes in debt
contracts: the cost of ﬂexibility in covenant
Anne Beattya,*, K. Rameshb, Joseph Weberc
Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, 215 Beam Business Adm. Building,
University Park, PA 16802, USA
Analysis Group/Economics, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA
Received 2 May 2000; received in revised form 30 November 2001
In this paper, we examine how the exclusion of voluntary and mandatory accounting
changes from the calculation of covenant compliance affects the interest rate charged on the
loan. After controlling for self-selection bias and other factors known to affect loan spreads,
we ﬁnd that the rate charged is 84 basis points lower when voluntary accounting changes are
excluded and 71 basis points lower when mandatory accounting changes are excluded. Our
results suggest that borrowers are willing to pay substantially higher interest rates to retain
accounting ﬂexibility that may help them avoid covenant violations and to avoid duplicate
record-keeping costs. r 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
JEL classiﬁcation: M4; G32
Keywords: Debt contracting; Accounting change; Covenant; Accounting choice
We would like to thank Robert Bowen and Angela Davis (the referees), Paul Asquith, Paul Fischer,
Bob Holthausen, S.P. Kothari, Richard Leftwich, Thomas Lys (the editor), Jody Magliolo, Ed Maydew,
Karl Muller, Katherine Schipper, Linda Vincent, and seminar participants at the University of Chicago,
University of Florida and the Pennsylvania State University for helpful comments. Anne Beatty gratefully
acknowledges ﬁnancial support from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-814-863-0707; fax: +1-814-863-8393.
E-mail address: email@example.com (A. Beatty).
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