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Goodwill, goodwill write-downs, goodwill impairment, quality of earnings
This paper examines goodwill on corporate balance sheets. Specifically, the paper measures the extent to which goodwill exists on corporate balance sheets and the degree of goodwill write-downs that have occurred recently. We report on our study and a study by Intangible Business, which show that many firms carry substantial amounts of goodwill on their 2008 balance sheets. Thus, because of the recent downturn in the economy and the markets, the potential for big bath earnings management for 2008 and 2009 exists. In addition, because of reductions in expected returns on pension plan assets, many firms are likely to record much higher pension expenses. We expect that the combination of goodwill impairments and increased pension expense will have significant effects on both the amount and the quality of earnings for 2008 and, possibly, 2009.