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Valuation Disputes in Corporate Bankruptcy

Prior scholarship points to valuation disputes and valuation error as key drivers of Chapter 11 outcomes. Avoiding valuation disputes and errors is also the underlying driver of most proposed reforms, from Baird’s auctions to Bebchuk’s options. In this paper, we undertake a detailed examination of bankruptcy court opinions involving valuation disputes. Our paper has two goals. The first is to understand how parties and their expert witnesses justify their opposing views to judges, and how judges decide between them. The second is to provide practical guidance to judges in resolving valuation disputes. We document surprisingly pervasive (and often self‐serving) errors in expert testimony. This is particularly true when valuation experts apply the discounted cash flow (DCF) method. With respect to key elements of that method, such as the discount rate, we observe stark inconsistency between expert testimony and finance theory and evidence. We propose simple strategies based in finance theory that judges can employ (such as avoiding the use of company‐specific risk premia in discount rates) to reduce the scope for valuation disagreements in Chapter 11. We also recommend that judges rely on the peer‐reviewed finance and economics literature to assess the scientific reliability of discount rates.