Fair value estimates from external third-party sources are generally considered more reliable than internal estimates based on managerial inputs. However, even externally sourced estimates are subject to managerial opportunism, because firms can switch from one external source to another. In the context of life insurance companies that mostly rely on external sources, we posit that such source switches could be driven by managerial incentive either to faithfully report fair values (objective valuation) or to inflate estimates to avoid OTTI (opinion shopping). Our results support both motives. In instances in which the two incentives yield conflicting predictions for source switching, we find the opinion-shopping motive dominates. We also find that switches that increase fair value estimates are associated with a reduced OTTI likelihood and magnitude, especially for high-impairment-risk securities. On balance, our evidence suggests that opportunism with respect to source switching can compromise the reliability of externally sourced fair value estimates.
Data Availability: Data are available from the public sources cited in the text.
JEL Classifications: G22; M41.