Unbiased Complex Securities Valuations: Key to Private Firms, Structured Products & Derivative Assessments


In an increasingly interconnected global financial landscape, the necessity for accurate and unbiased valuations in the realm of private companies, structured products, and derivatives cannot be overstated. Ernst & Young, a respected name in the field of professional services, underscores the importance of employing an independent, quantitative valuation firm to ensure the integrity of these assessments. This article offers a comprehensive overview of the significance of independent valuations and their role in fostering transparency and mitigating risk within the financial sector.

The Need for Independent Valuations:

Reducing Bias and Conflicts of Interest: One of the primary reasons for engaging an independent valuation firm is to minimize potential biases and conflicts of interest that may arise from internal assessments or those conducted by parties with vested interests in the valuation outcome. Internal teams or stakeholders may consciously or unconsciously influence valuations to align with their preferences, resulting in skewed or unreliable outcomes.

By employing a third-party, independent valuation firm, the risk of distorted or manipulated valuations is significantly diminished. This impartiality safeguards the interests of all stakeholders, including investors, creditors, employees, and regulators. An unbiased valuation provides a more accurate reflection of the true economic value of a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity, enabling better-informed decision-making and more effective risk management.

Compliance with Regulatory Requirements: Numerous regulatory bodies, such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), mandate that companies adhere to specific guidelines when conducting valuations. These guidelines may pertain to valuation methodologies, inputs, assumptions, or disclosure requirements, and are intended to promote consistency, comparability, and transparency in financial reporting.

Employing an independent, quantitative valuation firm helps businesses comply with these stringent requirements, ensuring accurate financial reporting and transparency. Independent valuation firms possess the necessary expertise, resources, and methodologies to navigate complex regulatory frameworks, minimizing the risk of non-compliance and the associated penalties, fines, or reputational damage.

Enhancing Credibility and Trust: An independent valuation lends credibility and trust to a company’s financial reporting, as it demonstrates a commitment to transparency, accuracy, and sound financial management. This increased credibility can help improve stakeholder relations, foster investor confidence, and enhance a company’s reputation in the marketplace.

Investors, creditors, and other stakeholders rely on accurate valuations to assess a company’s financial health, growth prospects, and risk exposure. By engaging an independent valuation firm, companies signal their commitment to providing reliable, unbiased information, which strengthens stakeholders’ trust and fosters long-term relationships. Furthermore, an independent valuation can help companies secure financing, negotiate transactions, or resolve disputes, as it serves as an objective, credible basis for decision-making.

Independent Valuations in Private Companies:

Fair Value Measurements: Private companies frequently necessitate independent valuations to determine the fair value of various financial instruments, including equity, debt, or other assets and liabilities. By engaging an impartial valuation firm, these organizations can obtain precise, market-based measurements crucial for financial reporting, tax planning, and strategic decision-making.

An accurate valuation is particularly important when determining the fair value of equity-based compensation, such as stock options, restricted stock units (RSUs), or performance shares. These compensation instruments are subject to Internal Revenue Code Section 409A, which governs the taxation of nonqualified deferred compensation plans. Under IRC 409A, private companies must establish the fair market value of their stock at the time of grant, and failure to do so may result in severe tax consequences for both the company and the recipient.

Mergers and Acquisitions: In the context of mergers and acquisitions, obtaining an independent valuation of the involved entities is critical for ensuring a fair and transparent transaction. Independent valuations help determine an equitable price for the target company, considering factors such as the firm’s financial performance, growth prospects, competitive position, and industry trends.

Moreover, independent valuations can identify potential synergies between the merging companies, such as cost savings, revenue enhancements, or operational efficiencies, which can enhance the overall value of the combined entity. By uncovering hidden risks or liabilities, such as contingent liabilities or off-balance-sheet items, independent valuations contribute to a smoother deal process, minimizing the likelihood of post-transaction surprises or disputes.

IRC 409A and Equity-Based Compensation: Under IRC 409A, private companies offering equity-based compensation in the form of nonqualified deferred compensation plans, such as stock options or RSUs, must ensure that the grant price is not lower than the fair market value of the underlying stock on the grant date. To comply with these requirements, companies must obtain an independent valuation of their stock, conducted by a qualified, unbiased valuation firm.

An independent valuation helps protect the interests of employees by ensuring that their equity-based compensation is fairly valued, reducing the risk of adverse tax consequences or disputes. Furthermore, accurate valuations contribute to regulatory compliance, demonstrating the company’s commitment to sound financial management and transparency.

Independent Valuations in Structured Products:

Assessing Complex Financial Instruments: Structured products, encompassing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and other asset-backed securities (ABS), are intricate financial instruments designed to meet specific investment objectives. These products often pool together a variety of underlying assets, such as mortgages, corporate debt, or consumer loans, and allocate their cash flows to different tranches with varying risk-return profiles.

Given the inherent complexity and diversity of structured products, accurate valuation requires sophisticated techniques and deep domain expertise. An independent valuation firm with experience in assessing these instruments can provide an impartial estimate of their intrinsic value and associated risks. This enables investors to make better-informed investment decisions, manage risk exposure, and optimize portfolio diversification.

In addition to facilitating investment decision-making, accurate valuations of structured products are essential for financial institutions that originate, securitize, or trade these instruments. Independent valuations help these institutions manage credit risk, liquidity risk, and market risk, ensuring that their financial stability and solvency are maintained in the face of changing market conditions.

Mark-to-Market Valuations: Mark-to-market accounting is a critical component of financial reporting, requiring the periodic revaluation of assets and liabilities to reflect their current market value. This approach ensures that financial statements present a true and fair view of a company’s financial position, promoting transparency and reducing the likelihood of financial misstatement.

Independent valuations of structured products play a vital role in mark-to-market accounting. By providing an unbiased estimate of the fair value of these instruments, valuation firms enable companies to update their financial statements in line with prevailing market conditions. This, in turn, helps stakeholders, such as investors, creditors, and regulators, to assess the company’s financial health more accurately and make informed decisions.

Regulatory Compliance: Structured products are subject to rigorous regulatory scrutiny, owing to their complexity and potential impact on financial stability. Regulatory bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), have established specific rules and guidelines for the valuation and disclosure of structured products.

Employing an independent valuation firm to assess structured products can help companies comply with these regulatory requirements, ensuring that their financial reporting is accurate, transparent, and consistent with prevailing standards. Furthermore, independent valuations can help companies maintain the trust of regulators and investors, demonstrating a commitment to sound financial management and risk mitigation.

Independent Valuations in Derivative Valuation

Quantifying Derivative Risks: Derivatives, including options, futures, and swaps, are financial instruments that derive their values from underlying assets, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, or currencies. These instruments are often used to hedge risks, speculate on market movements, or enhance portfolio returns. Due to the inherent complexity and potential risks associated with derivatives, obtaining precise and unbiased valuations is of utmost importance.

A professional, quantitative valuation firm can accurately quantify derivative risks by employing advanced mathematical models and sophisticated techniques, such as Monte Carlo simulations or lattice models. This enables companies to assess the potential impact of changes in market conditions on their derivative positions, providing valuable insights for informed risk management and decision-making. Accurate valuations also contribute to regulatory compliance, as financial regulators often require companies to report the fair value of their derivative holdings and associated risks.

Counterparty Credit Risk: Counterparty credit risk refers to the risk of financial loss resulting from the default of a counterparty in a derivatives contract. This risk is particularly relevant in over the counter (OTC) derivatives markets, where transactions are conducted between two parties without the intermediation of a central clearinghouse.

Independent valuations of derivative contracts can help identify and measure counterparty credit risk by assessing the creditworthiness of the involved parties and determining the potential exposure in the event of default. Armed with this information, companies can manage their exposure more effectively and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures, such as collateral arrangements, credit support annexes, or diversifying counterparties.

Hedge Effectiveness Assessment: Derivatives play a crucial role in risk management strategies, as they allow companies to hedge against various market risks, including interest rate fluctuations, foreign exchange movements, and commodity price changes. To ensure the success of these hedging strategies, it is essential to assess their effectiveness regularly.

Independent valuations can facilitate hedge effectiveness assessment by providing an unbiased estimate of the fair value of the derivative instrument and its underlying exposure. This allows companies to compare the performance of the hedge against predefined benchmarks or criteria, such as dollar offset, regression analysis, or value at risk (VaR). By evaluating hedge effectiveness, companies can fine-tune their risk management strategies, optimize hedge ratios, and minimize the potential for financial losses due to market volatility.


In an ever-evolving financial landscape, the importance of independent, unbiased valuations for private companies, structured products, and derivatives is paramount. Engaging an independent, quantitative valuation firm is essential for ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, reducing biases and conflicts of interest, and fostering credibility and trust. By partnering with a professional valuation firm, companies can navigate the complexities of the financial world with confidence and make better-informed decisions that benefit all stakeholders.

How can Eton help?

At Eton Venture Services, we pride ourselves on delivering professional, comprehensive valuation and financial advisory services tailored to your unique needs. Don’t settle for generic software models or inexperienced teams when it comes to critical financial evaluations for your business. Trust Eton’s expert team to provide thorough, data-driven assessments that empower you to make well-informed decisions and optimize your portfolio management. Join the industry leaders who have already benefited from Eton’s exceptional client service and advisory expertise. Let us guide you through the intricacies of multi-asset class valuations and modern portfolio management. Get in touch with Eton Venture Services today.

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President & CEO

Chris co-founded Eton Venture Services in 2010 to provide mission-critical valuations to venture-based companies. He works closely with each client’s leadership team, board of directors, internal / external counsel, and independent auditor to develop detailed financial models and create accurate, audit-proof valuations.

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