SYNOPSIS: Accountants have historically distanced themselves from the concept of negative goodwill on the premise that bargain purchases should not take place in the presence of efficient securities markets. This position has been a powerful influence on the accounting for negative goodwill for over half a century. However, in line with the expansion of fair value accounting, the latest accounting standard that addresses negative goodwill, SFAS No. 141(R), Business Combinations (FASB 2007), calls for the full recognition of bargain-purchase (negative goodwill) amounts. Rather than allocating some or all negative goodwill against selected acquired assets, as has been done previously, negative goodwill is now to be recognized in the year of the acquisition as a regular item of income or gain. In essence, SFAS No. 141(R) holds that the excess of the fair value of net assets acquired over the acquiring firm’s acquisition cost constitutes the receipt of value to the acquiring firm, and should be recognized as such. While this position may seem plausible, to our knowledge there has been no research that tests whether negative goodwill is valued. Based upon a sample of acquisition transactions involving negative goodwill, our research does not provide compelling evidence that markets value negative goodwill.

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