Wednesday, December 31, 2008

SEC Issues Report on Mark to Market Accounting

The Securities and Exchange Commission recommended against suspending fair-value accounting rules, instead suggesting improvements to deal with illiquid markets and reducing the number of models used to measure impaired assets.

In a 211-page report to U.S. lawmakers, as expected, the agency's staff Tuesday definitely recommended that fair-value and mark-to-market not be eliminated or suspended. "The abrupt elimination of fair value and market-to-market requirements would erode investor confidence," the report said.

The banking lobby has argued that financial institutions have been forced to write off as losses still-valuable assets because the market for them had dried up, creating a spiral of write-downs and asset sales.

The report said that staff found no evidence to suggest that the accounting rules had played a significant role in the collapse of U.S. financial institutions. "While the application of fair value varies among these each case studied it does not appear that the application of fair value can be considered to have been a proximate cause of the failure," the report said.

Additionally, the SEC suggests that the Financial Accounting Standards Board narrow the number of accounting models firms can use to assess the impairment for financial instruments.

Michael R. Crittenden at the Wall Street Journal

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