In case you thought the fair value debate was limited to the U.S. circa 2008, think again. A rule you probably haven't heard of (but will likely see a version of once government debt becomes as much of a pain in the ass here as it has been in Europe) called IFRS 9 (which replaces IAS 39) would allow banks to price some government debt on their books at cost, instead of current awful prices.
Apparently the European Union doesn't like this idea. EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier told a webcast meeting in New York this week "I do not believe this will be the first solution to the problems we face in Europe at the moment," referring to IFRS 9's creative interpretation of "fair value." Ironically, IFRS 9 accomplishes this feat by eliminating available for sale and held-to-maturity classifications for bonds, leaving only amortized cost and fair value.
IASB Chairman Hans Hoogervorst insists this plan is really only the suck less option, not some sort of magical accounting trick that will suddenly make Greece solvent and Irish banks healthy. "Under IFRS 9 impairments will still be painful but I am convinced it would be more timely done because the cliff effect is much less severe," he said at a recent joint meeting of the IASB's trustees and monitoring board of public officials, including Michel Barnier.