Iasb e a Crise

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IASB calls credit crunch meeting

By Jennifer Hughes in London

24 September 2008

Financial Times

Asia Ed1


International accounting rulemakers are to hold an unscheduled board meeting next week to discuss certain topics made controversial by the credit crunch – including “fair value” and off-balance sheet accounting.

The meeting comes after the crisis on Wall Street has prompted fresh calls from banks and other financial institutions for regulators to ease their demands for “fair value” or mark-to-market, accounting where companies are required to mark their financial holdings at the current market value.

It is the first time that the International Accounting Standards Board has held an extraordinary meeting of this sort and reflects the current intense interest in accounting.

Both the IASB and its US counterpart FASB have come under severe pressure from banks over their accounting rules. Sir David Tweedie, head of the IASB, has been a particularly vocal advocate of fair value.

So far, the accounting bodies have been supported by leading market regulators, including the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the UK’s Financial Services Authority.

Many banks and insurers – including AIG, the US giant bailed out last week by the US government – have complained fiercely that the extreme market moves of the past year have caused them to write down billions in terms of “fair value”, leading in many cases to reported losses, even though they have no intention of selling the holdings and believe that prices will recover.

This week, the US Financial Services Roundtable, which speaks for large financial services groups, called on the SEC temporarily to exclude mortgage-related assets from fair value requirements. It also suggested that any prices paid by the planned government fund to buy these assets should not count as the reported market value since that would force other banks to mark down their holdings to those levels.

In Europe, opposition has been slightly more restrained. This week the British Bankers’ Association called for a “mixed measurement” model that would use fair values for some items but not for those held for the long term.

“It is important the IASB understands the banking industry’s concerns. Full fair value accounting by itself will not necessarily reduce complexity or bring clarity,” said Paul Chisnall, the BBA’s executive director for financial policy

The IASB is consulting on ways of simplifying accounting for financial instruments – a notoriously complex process. It is also shortly to produce a draft for changes to off-balance-sheet accounting that is likely to require greater disclosure of vehicles not directly reported on the balance sheet.


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