Tuesday, August 25, 2009

American Bankers' Association Criticizes FASB, IASB over mark to Market Changes

The American bankers Association (“ABA”) has written to Robert Herz, Chairman of the FASB and Sir David Tweedie Chairman of IASB, about their concerns around the process being taken on the FASB and IASB projects relating to financial instruments.

The ABA has lobbied against mark to market accounting for years and their response is no surprise.

The ABA says that the changes that the FASB and IASB are considering represent the most significant accounting changes the ABA has ever experienced. The ABA encourages the FASB and IASB to make such changes only "with utmost caution and the appropriate level of due process to correspond with the magnitude of the changes."

The ABA agrees that a certain amount of change is urgently needed, but that the FASB and IASB direction may cause significant disruption, with both preparers and users of financial statements.

They state that rule-makers must be very careful in this effort to ensure that any changes:

1) represent solid and meaningful change that is valuable and understandable to financial statement users;
2) focus on the business models used by entities that prepare the financial statements, and
3) can be implemented and maintained at a reasonable cost.

Other points made:

  • The rapid paces at which both organizations are working, as well as the paths being taken, are causing some to question whether there is due process in evaluating these important issues.
  • Some bankers also question whether such efforts are driven by a search for simplicity, transparency, and accuracy or by an appetite to expand fair value accounting, no matter the implications.
  • A major concern is that the current directions in which the FASB and IASB are moving appear to be similarly requiring more mark to market accounting (MTM) within the financial statements, more capital for many existing banking activities, and more operational challenges to comply with these rules for banks of all sizes.
  • The cost of accounting compliance puts continued participation in certain market activities at risk for some smaller institutions.
  • Concern over the current divergence between the FASB and IASB proposed models and time frames for completion. The IASB plans to finalize its accounting standard in 2009, and the FASB's completion date will be subsequent to that date. In such case, the FASB will have only one of two choices: (1) to follow the IASB model – which will not provide U.S. companies with appropriate due process for providing input, or (2) a lack of international convergence – which should be avoided.
ABA says that the IASB appears to be solving the accounting puzzle on a piecemeal basis, which may result in pre-determining the outcome for subsequent parts of the puzzle that may not fit.

ABA feels that it is extremely important that new standards be developed jointly by the FASB and IASB, with proper due process and open consultation with a wide range of constituents that ensures a holistic review.

ABA's points for consideration when making substantial changes to the accounting model:
  • Serious consideration must be give to field testing proposals prior to implementation, and sufficient transition time must be provided.
  • Regulatory accounting rules should be consistent with GAAP.
  • Accounting changes must meet a “costs vs. benefits” test.

No comments: