Exposure Drafts appears every other Wednesday. Send your accounting cartoon ideas and photos of stool samples to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Greg Kyte on Twitter.
"The quality of financial information produced by IFRS is very high, thanks to the work of the IASB, but also to the convergence project with the United States. And a decade of use by both advanced and developing economies has shown that our mission of a s ingle set of high global accounting standards is […]
You know, I have to give it to these guys, they are nothing if not persistent. They are like that lady who is always calling me to talk about my credit card interest rates; no matter how many times I cuss her out, hang up on her, threaten to report her to the pretend federal […]
Funny that the IASB and FASB working together on a new lease accounting standard was totally kumbaya up until recently, when everything fell apart and both sides realized this convergadoption thing is totally never going to happen. Too bad, joining forces on revenue recognition made it seem so likely despite the fact that everyone including […]
Hans Hoogervorst doesn’t sound at all passive aggressive here or anything:
Where exactly has the Congressional Caucus on CPAs and Accountants been all this time? The SEC has only been dragging its heels on convergadoption since, like, the beginning of time or at least 2008, which might as well be the beginning of time as far as we are concerned. Now, these guys — who, in […]
The explanation is pure gold, really. I will have to review my tape on all SEC Chief Accountant Paul Beswick said this morning from this conference but according to the Journal of Accountancy, he said this: Rule-making duties related to federal legislation have prevented the SEC from devoting time to deciding on the future of […]
I could watch this all day. GIFSoup
Back in November the IASB came up with the idea to start a new cool club called the Accounting Standards Advisory Forum. It was going to include 12 elite members of accounting rule wonkery that would be at the forefront of global financial reporting. There was one major to joining the ASAF, however, and that was […]
We don't have an official headcount for this particular IFRS rally, but it's our understanding that at least one person's attendance was a complete coincidence. I hope this doesn't affect a future FASB fellowship opportunity.
I know. What the hell? Isn't IFRS a predetermined given like Avengers 2 and Kardashian divorces? IFRS is tested on the CPA exam. The SEC already accepts IFRS in certain circumstances. For years we've heard about the Norwalk Agreement, the SEC roadmap, and FASB convergence or adoption or endorsement (or as it's more commonly known […]
When a supporter of IFRS thinks about the SEC and how they've managed to successfully stall on making anything that closely resembles a decision about the future of financial reporting in the United States, it probably causes (s)he to fly into a rage that can only be abated by watching a live puppy cam for […]
Accounting rule convergence is dead. I know it. You know it. Hans Hoogervorst knows it. Everyone has accepted the fact that the SEC managed to tell IFRS supporters to stick their principles-based rules where the sun don't shine in the most passive-aggressive way possible. Yes, the IASB is still coming up with pathetic ideas to […]
Once upon a time, a few people got together and decided that we'd all be better off if businesses worldwide were all using one harmonious set of accounting rules. In 2001, when IASB took over as the main international standard-setting body for accounting rules, it ushered in the era of IFRS to be the gold standard […]
For you overgrown adolescent boys out there looking for your next gamer challenge and Madden '13 just isn't doing it for you, let us present Alligators on a Bridge. It's April 15th and Tim the IRS Agent is nearly finished checking the tax forms he’s been assigned. Tim has had to deal with reading multiple […]
Speaking at the AICPA EDGE Conference in Orlando last week, the AICPA's Greg Anton said while the AICPA supports giving US companies the option to use IFRS to prepare their financial statements and would like to see one set of accounting standards, the "absolute soonest" IFRS will be seen in the US will be five […]
The foot-dragging by the SEC over IFRS is a sight to behold. At some point in time – the Triassic Period, or thereabouts – the G20 requested "key global accounting standards bodies [to] work intensively toward the objective of creating a single high-quality global standard." And yet on Friday, the SEC served up a steaming pile of […]
Cynthia Fornelli & Co. appreciate the effort by the SEC but would have appreciated a little bit of cuddling: “The SEC staff is to be commended for completing its Work Plan on international financial reporting standards (IFRS). While staff recommendations of specific approaches or dates for the possible incorporation of IFRS into the U.S. financial reporting […]
Nothing like dropping this on everyone at 6 pm. On a Friday. In the middle of July. Half of the people that care about this thing are on vacation and the other half left at three o'clock. That's the SEC for ya. Have a read over the weekend and we'll debrief (if necessary) on Monday. […]
This is the fourth installment of our Going Concern freelancer submissions. The following is by Dylan Grey. A little bird has been whispering IFRS in my ear for years…. Discussed at every financial reporting update. Front and center of every annual SEC "Hot Topics" list. Mocked by CFOs across the US. Back in November 2008, […]
SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker is "hopeful" that the SEC can figure something out re: IFRS in the coming months but if you're a controller/CFO type at a small company who thought that this wasn't going to be your problem, Jim has news for you: He downplayed the notion of smaller firms being able to […]
A recommendation on whether U.S. companies should switch to international accounting rules will take a few more months, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s chief accountant said Monday. The SEC’s staff had been expected to make a recommendation by year-end on whether U.S. companies should adopt the global rules, known as International Financial Reporting Standards. But the staff needs “a few additional months” to complete its work, SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker said. [WSJ]
“The simple truth is that when you have two independent, highly competent boards, sometimes they will agree with each other, and other times they will not,” he said. “It’s not that one is right and the other wrong; they just reach different conclusions. The same would be true if I were to split my board in two and ask them to consider 10 projects. I doubt each smaller board would reach identical conclusions on all 10 projects, so convergence would require compromises to be made. Convergence therefore does not always result in the highest quality outcome. It has served its purpose, but now it is time to move on. [AT]
If anyone over the SEC needs a little help getting their heads around how to best get on board with IFRS, H-squared has found a prize pupil for you to emulate:
Addressing a conference in Sao Paolo, the former Dutch finance minister used Brazil as a “textbook example” of how best to implement global accounting standards. Hoogervorst […] praised the country’s full adoption and decision not to “tweak” the standards, saying this means global investors are “entirely comfortable” Brazilian companies’ financial statements.
Now, let’s keep in mind he said this at an “IFRS and Emerging Market” meeting in Lagos, and meant it in regards to African companies.
Retired IASB board member Bob Garnett said for any country seeking membership of G20, becoming IFRS compliant is a must. He also said African companies will need to work together in regional groups to have more weight as they will not gain necessary influence on their own because they do not have the IFRS track record yet.
The pre-workshop meeting at which Garnett made these comments was organized by Ernst and Young (“a leading voice in IFRS converstion,” according to Nigerian publication The Nation).
Remember it was only days ago that the IASB’s fearless fish-loving leader Hans Hoogervorst was in Boston assuring U.S. regulators they’d have a say in IFRS rules if they’d just hurry up and adopt already. No mention was made about kicking us out of G20 if we don’t embrace IFRS fully and soon.
Anyone else smelling the distinct aroma of desperation?
Also last week at the Boston conference, AICPA CEO Barry Melancon said the SEC should allow U.S. companies to use IFRS if they want “to level the playing field with their international competitors.”
IFRS cheerleading sessions are taking place all around the world at this point, and it’s only a matter of time before the SEC will finally be forced to commit to a plan and adopt. Or else?
Global Reporting Standards are gaining popularity among investors and finance executives, according to a new report by ACCA. Around 170 senior executives and investors were questioned. More than 40% said international financial reporting standards improve access to capital, while around 25% believe the global standards have lowered capital costs. ACCA chief executive Helen Brand said: “Growing support amongst CFOs and investors for [IFRS] must be considered carefully” by US regulator the SEC as it debates converging US GAAP with international standards. “We believe a positive answer from the SEC would give a tremendous boost to the cause of financial reporting and more importantly the world economy.” [Accountancy Age, Earlier]
While the world is filled with torment, class warfare, famine, racism, war and uprising, those darn kids at the IASB are still concerned with one thing and one thing only. That one thing, obviously, is the U.S. adoption of IFRS.
Anyone else get the feeling Hans and Co. are getting a tad impatient with our heel dragging?
Piggybacking off the post Caleb was too lazy to write himself yesterday, we hear IASB chairman Hans Hoogervorst said in a Boston speech yesterday that adopting IFRS would offer U.S. public companies “the same financial reporting language for both internal management reporting and external financial reporting on a worldwide consolidated basis.” Where this is a benefit for us is entirely unclear to me, but that’s why I’m not chairman of the IASB.
Ol’ Hansy also promised that the U.S. would still play a pivotal role in shaping global accounting rules if we go ahead and trust them and adopt outright now. It is unclear whether that was a threat or not, as it is also unclear if he really thinks we’re that dumb.
This is the IASB chair’s first American speech, and in it he also said that the SEC can serve as a sort of emergency switch should the IASB decide to implement a rule that just won’t work in U.S. markets. “Such endorsement mechanisms provide an important ‘circuit breaker’ if the IASB produced a standard with fundamental problems for the United States,” he told the conference.
“So there is absolutely no danger of importing different enforcement standards from abroad into the United States,” he said. You hear that, kids? Absolutely no danger. Well crap, why haven’t we adopted these fabulous standards already then? It can’t possibly fail, the IASB told us it’s all good!
Hoogervorst said U.S. sovereignty would be protected by the SEC having a final say before any IASB rule is introduced. “Such endorsement mechanisms provide an important ‘circuit breaker’ if the IASB produced a standard with fundamental problems for the United States,” Hoogervorst told an accounting conference. The SEC would remain in full control of enforcement. “So there is absolutely no danger of importing different enforcement standards from abroad into the United States,” the former Dutch finance minister added. [Reuters]
Count IASB Vice Chairman Ian Mackintosh as one.
Ian Mackintosh called the IASB a success story, saying global standards are now accepted in more than 120 countries and high-profile non-signer the US will make a decision later this year.
Investors: IFRS unfit for purpose [Accountancy Age]
“It is my strong conviction that the momentum behind IFRS is so strong right now it can only be delayed but it cannot be stopped any more,” IASB’s chairman Hans Hoogervorst said.
The United States has an “extremely important” decision to make this year on whether to replace its own Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)standard with IASB rules, Hoogervorst told a webcast meeting of the IASB’s trustees in New York. By next year two thirds of the world’s top 20 economies (G20) will be allowing or requiring local listed companies to use the IFRS accounting rules. [Reuters, Earlier]
Representatives of large institutional investors told the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that they had serious qualms about the London-based International Accounting Standards Board replacing the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board as the primary arbiter of accounting rules in this country.
Speaking at an SEC panel focusing on investor views of international financial reporting standards, the representatives roundly supported the goal of establishing a single set of high-quality global financial reporting standards in the United States in the form of IFRS. But they suggested that the IASB, the current promulgator of IFRS, lacks the backbone and outreach capability of FASB — qualities that would be needed for a global system to succeed. [CFO]
If W. Anderson Bishop wanted to sound like a person who is refusing to adopt a different system of measurement because A) it was developed outside the United States B) doing things the easy way is dumb or C) he’s a crusty old fart, he has succeed admirably.
“We didn’t join the metric system when everybody else did,” says W. Anderson Bishop, [Hallador Energy Co.’s] chief financial officer. U.S. accounting rules are “the gold standard, and why would we want to lower our standards just to make the rest of the world happy?”
On the day of Sir David Tweedie’s retirement, no less.
Japan is considering postponing the mandatory introduction of global accounting standards for all listed companies beyond the original target date of 2015, amid strong opposition to the change from the country’s business community. Japan’s financial services minister, Shozaburo Jimi, said Thursday at a Business Accounting Council meeting, hosted by the Financial Services Agency, that making Japanese companies adopt the rule—known as the International Financial Reporting Standard—within a few years could be a big burden and costly for businesses. “If Japanese firms are required to move to IFRS, we will need enough time, five to seven years, for preparation,” Mr. Jimi said, adding that discussions over the matter will take time.
Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s annual CFO Network meeting in Washington D.C., Schapiro readily admitted that there isn’t a big push from either multinationals or shareholders to move to international financial reporting standards.
In response to a question from Bank of America’s CFO, Chuck Noski, Schapiro said, “We have not heard from a lot of shareholders that we have to go (to IFRS). We’ve heard the contrary… ‘Why would we take this step toward international accounting standards?’” [CFOJ]
The International Accounting Standards Board is none-too-pleased that India has retreated from plans to fully adopt International Financial Reporting Standards this year and is a making a public push to get the country back on track. A failure to persuade India on the issue would raise serious questions about how successful IASB can be in convincing other major economies, including the U.S., China and Japan, to make a full switch. “To put it in one sentence, we strongly encourage adoption as against convergence,” IASB member Prabhakar Kalavacherla said at a conference in Mumbai last week, according to a copy of his speech, where he urged India to take a bigger role in international standard setting to address its concerns. [CFO Journal]
We’re sure all of you have been anxious for an update since the last FASB/IASB progress report last November, wait no longer.
• Completed five projects: In the next few weeks the IASB will issue new standards on consolidated financial statements (including disclosure of interests in other entities), joint arrangements and post-employment benefits and both boards will issue new requirements in relation to fair value measurement and the presentation of other comprehensive income.
• Given priority to the three remaining Memorandum of Understanding projects, as well as insurance accounting: The Boards have made substantial progress towards completion of the three remaining MoU projects covering financial instruments accounting, leasing and revenue recognition, as well as their joint project to improve and align US and international insurance accounting standards.
• Provided for further time to finalise their convergence work: The boards have agreed to extend the timetable for the remaining priority convergence projects beyond June 2011 to permit further work and consultation with stakeholders in a manner consistent with an open and inclusive due process. The convergence projects are targeted for completion in then second half of 2011 (however, the U.S. insurance standard, which has not yet been exposed, is targeted for the first half of 2012).
Wait a second, did they really say that putting off more convergence work is an accomplishment? That’s our kind of work right there. IASB Chair Sir David Tweedie and FASB Chair Leslie Seidman didn’t let that little detail deter them from patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Said Sir David, “the convergence programme continues to raise the standard of financial reporting worldwide, delivering much-needed improvements in key areas and providing a solid platform for global high quality standards.” What is that even supposed to mean? Sounds like the same pro-convergence gibberish we’ve been hearing all along.
Someone come get us when this actually means something.
‘Cause there’s gonna be a roundtable.
The Securities and Exchange Commission staff announced today that it will sponsor a roundtable in July to discuss benefits or challenges in potentially incorporating International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) into the financial reporting system for U.S. issuers.
The July 7 event will feature three panels representing investors, smaller public companies, and regulators. The panel discussions will focus on topics such as investor understanding of IFRS and the impact on smaller public companies and on the regulatory environment of incorporating IFRS.
“We must carefully consider and deliberate whether incorporating IFRS into our financial reporting system is in the best interest of U.S. investors and markets,” said SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker. “This roundtable will provide an excellent opportunity for investors, preparers, and regulators to provide the SEC staff with valuable information that will help the Commission in its ongoing consideration of incorporating IFRS.”
See you there. If you manage to recover from your July 4th meat sweats, that is.
He may be on his way out the door but still IASB chair David “that’s Sir David to you” Tweedie is still sick of all our heel-dragging on IFRS in the U.S. He hasn’t gone so far as to say we’ll be left in the capital market dust if we don’t adopt tomorrow but he’s clearly fed up with our procrastination.
If they put off a commitment to international financial reporting standards beyond 2011, U.S. accounting rulemakers and standard-setters would impose “unnecessary costs and risks on U.S. companies,” Sir David Tweedie, chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board, said Wednesday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce gathering on the future of financial reporting.
The major risks are competitive ones, said Tweedie. U.S.-based multinationals already must fill numerous sets of accounting books. Many must file their financials under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles even as they report on the activities of their overseas subsidiaries under IFRS or the standards crafted by individual nations, he pointed out. At the same time, their foreign competitors can use IFRS for all purposes, even for filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he added.
As is, the transition to IFRS is estimated to cost American companies $35 million per year (remember 3 years of restatements will be required). We’re not sure if he has access to different estimates that somehow make qualified IFRS monkey restatements more expensive in 2012 and beyond than they would be by the end of this year but it seems painfully clear that he means business.
I’m not sure if he missed the memo but we don’t seem as enthusiastic about convergence as we did when we delayed the release of a roadmap in 2008. Three years later, we don’t appear to be any more prepared for the transition than we were then and still have three (or make that four) more good years to drag our heels according to recent statements by the SEC.
How much clearer does Tweeds need it? We’re just not that into your standards.
Merging the iconic New York Stock Exchange with Germany’s Deutsche Boerse AG will force European companies to switch to using U.S. accounting rules which have superior disclosures, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday.” This will force a common set of accounting standards on the world; the American disclosures are better,” Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR radio show, though he admitted U.S. rules did not prevent Bernard Madoff from swindling billions of dollars through a Ponzi scheme. [Reuters]
Your next IASB chairman, Hans Hoogervorst, already has a few things on his to do list (right after scratching Sir David Tweedie’s name off the door), one of which involves restoring investor confidence by redoing last year’s bank stress tests in Europe since it seems they were not really credible, “One reason for scepticism was that sovereign bonds on the banking book were deemed to retain their full value, despite the fact that many were trading at steep discounts in the market,” he said. “The fact that some Irish banks that had passed the test later turned out to be insolvent only served to reinforce the doubts in the market.”
Doubts? That’s a kind way to put it.
Speaking at the two-day European Commission financial reporting and auditing conference, Hoogervorst also wanted to make sure everyone is clear on who rules the IASB. Despite appearances that rules are made by a handful of influential Europeans who like to play with accounting regs, he insisted the IASB is a multi-national group in which everyone gets a say. Or rather, he insisted that he’ll be trying to make sure the IASB is perceived as such, “It’s very important that we develop a governance structure that is more inclusive. At all costs we should avoid the perception that IFRS is dominated by a small group of nations,” he said. He did not seem to clarify if he was more worried about the actual structure of the IASB or just the appearance, nor did he mention how many U.S. delegates will have at the IASB’S table if we were to stop dragging our feet and just adopt already.
While auditors are taking a lot of heat for failing to catch just how bad off European banks were, H-squared doesn’t seem to feel they deserve so much criticism as they were simply following the rules. “How critical will auditors be when they see that regulators consider that severely discounted securities carry no risk?” he asked, obviously rhetorically.
Also in attendance at the conference, Federal Reserve senior associate director and chief accountant Arthur Lindo, who is hopeful that we here on this side of the pond will “move diligently towards some form of IFRS in the near future.” What Lindo did not say was whether or not the Fed would also adopt these rules or continue to use their freakish hybrid of GAAP and government accounting that they make up each and every year. Perhaps convergence will mean throwing in some IFRS into their 300+ page financial accounting manual.
Looks like Hans is going to have his hands full for the foreseeable future. Veel geluk met dat!
Comments reflected “a lot of unanimity around, if we go in this direction, allowing sufficient time for companies to adjust,” said Schapiro in a question-and-answer session following her keynote address to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ national conference on accounting and auditing issues for public companies. “It’s likely to be a minimum of four years,” but that’s still a point for the SEC to decide, she said, assuming it decides to incorporate IFRS into U.S. capital markets. [Compliance Week]
That being said, Jim Kroeker will have you know that things are going along swimmingly, per the Commission’s press release:
“The staff has invested significant time and effort in executing the Work Plan, and we’ve made great progress to date,” said SEC Chief Accountant Jim Kroeker. “This progress report emphasizes the importance of transparency in the staff’s activities, and can help the public’s understanding of the magnitude of this project and the staff’s progress.”
So make no mistake; the SEC is on this. However, they do have some concerns, “[W]hether the international accounting rule maker is truly independent and whether IFRS is high quality.”
So if you could address those two things, that would be appreciated. Sir David.
For the first times since we started paying attention, the TIGTA is simply putting everyone on notice that the IRS is on top of this IFRS thing. No “You suck at this IRS” or “Here’s a list of things you should considering doing if you are interested in not sucking any more, IRS.” Simply, “Here’s what they’re doing. Have a nice day.”
The IRS began developing plans for strategic and operational activities related to the adoption of the IFRS in 2009.
TIGTA found that the IRS: is training employees about IFRS concepts and potential issues; working with the tax preparer community to identify and outline IFRS implementation concerns; and developing procedures to address issues related to IFRS conversion efforts.
“The IRS is appropriately laying the groundwork for its increased oversight of international taxation by gaining an understanding of the International Financial Reporting Standards,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
TIGTA did not make any recommendations in this audit and the IRS did not provide any comments on a draft of the report.
Doesn’t quite feel right, does it?
Look, pal. We get that you’re anxious to slap these sets of accounting rules together like an IKEA ottoman. We also get that you and a certain knight want – nay – need the RW&B to be on board.
But we don’t know who you’re trying to boss here. See, we’re fairly certain you’d be speaking German if it wasn’t for us. Furthermore, in case you haven’t noticed, we like dragging things out until the last possible minute. Or just ignoring things until we have a giant mess on our hands and then we try cleaning up. Why would we treat IFRS any different?
We understand it’s a new century, millennium and you guys have a rough go in the World Cup but you can give it a rest.
We’ll get to IFRS when we’re good and ready and just because today is Bob Herz’s last day at the FASB doesn’t mean you need to get all anxious about it:
The US is due to make a decision about whether fully buy in to international standards in the latter half of next year. There has been speculation that the appointment of a new chairman for the US standard setter, FASB, could determine which way the world’s biggest economy will go on international standards.
In a speech yesterday to a conference organised by European financial think tank EUROFI, Barnier welcomed the involvement of the US in the Basel talks on financial regulation. But he added that the US should not part company with IFRS.
“It’s essential that we adopt the same prudential framework. I say this very simply, we cannot afford to take the risk of divergence in this area. And this is also the case for accounting standards,” he said.
EU chief urges US to buy into IFRS [Accountancy Age]
[caption id="attachment_12975" align="alignright" width="122" caption="Source: Stern School of Business"][/caption]
Now that convergence has been delayed, the anti-convergence/IFRS contingent is hopeful that this is a major sign of defeat. Whether that’s the case or not remains to be seen but don’t expect the debate to go away.
We recently spoke with Dr. Frederick Choi, Dean Emeritus and Distingu��������������������sor of Business and Chair of the Accounting Department at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business about the latest current events and what Stern does to prepare its students for IFRS in their careers and on the CPA Exam.
GC: So the number one question on everyone’s mind – will the world end if the United States converts to IFRS?
Dr. Frederick Choi: [laughs] My answer to that is to not to worry, the world will continue as it always has, so we’ll continue to have fun with accounting like we always have in the past.
GC: So there’s no risk that the U.S. will lose its imperial superpower status as a result of this?
FC: No, I don’t think so. I think there’s sufficient flexibility in international accounting standards so that we can continue on as before.
GC: So why do you think the SEC is so cautious? Are all those lawyers scared because there might be numbers involved?
FC: First of all, the U.S. environment is a very litigious environment so I think there’s a concern that IFRS will permit more judgment for the company presenting the numbers. U.S. GAAP, because of the litigious environment, has to be a little more prescriptive, that is, “here are the rules, here are the exceptions.”
At one time in the US, our accounting rules were principles-based and required a lot of judgment. In the ‘60s some companies were were cooking the books which resulted in reporting scandals and class-actions. Then someone said, , “hey, the audit firms have a lot money, so let’s go after the auditors.” That’s when accounting prescriptions became much more rules-focused. So I think the big fear is that moving from an environment that is more rules-based to one that is more principles based will require much more judgment and perhaps invite more litigation.
GC: So a little current events question – what do you make of the FASB and IASB’s announcement that the convergence project is going to be a tad late? Was the June 2011 to get those G20 guys off their backs or did they really think they were going to get this pulled off?
FC: I think when they first started the project towards convergence they did so in good faith but there are some significant differences that need to be ironed out. And given the vested interests, it’s going to take a while. I’m not surprised that the deadline has been extended.
GC: And the SEC seems completely all right with it.
GC: Say I’m against IFRS – in fact, I’m a militant for U.S. GAAP. I don’t want IFRS anywhere near our capital markets because it’s too principles-based, countries need financial reporting autonomy and that it doesn’t really benefit anyone except a bunch of big accounting firms that need a new revenue stream? Plus, it’s going to be a nightmare for companies to convert to and it doesn’t really help small and medium-sized businesses…
FC: That’s correct.
GC: …having said all that, your response to me is…
FC: I look at this from the point of view of the the analyst. From the point of view of the analyst, the name of the game is to read the tea leaves and get as close to the underlying transaction as possible. The one strength of U.S. GAAP is that there’s a lot of research that goes into the pronouncements. I think U.S. GAAP – without sounding nationalistic – is the best researched, empirically as well as conceptually, accounting standards in the world.
I think an analyst should not be bogged down by whether U.S. GAAP is better or IFRS is better. Analysts have always taken the numbers and massaged them to get closer to what he or she thinks the underlying economics are. In fact, if you look at the not-so-sharp analyst who will say, “Oh, we’re going to IFRS and that’s going to make my life easier,” my response is “No, it’s not.” I think it will be more complicated.
GC: Okay but there are going to be some tricky areas, right? What are those going to be?
FC: I think the biggie is the ability to write down an asset and write it back up. Here in the States, when we impair an asset we cannot go back and reverse it. The rationale behind that was you don’t want to give firms the option to manage the bottom line.
Firms that write asset back up will be able to smooth earnings. Say you and I are in business and we have a good year, so we write down an asset and take the loss. Next year, we say “Oh my god, results are horrible. How can we pump up the bottom line?” We reverse the write-down. So, that’s a big concern that I have. That applies to intangible assets, it applies to plant & equipment, it applies to inventory. So this is a biggie.
Another difference worth nothing is if management feels that the standard they are following is misleading, they can actually deviate from the standard. That’s a major concern as well.
GC: How familiar are you with integrated reporting? How do you think it fits in with the transition and is this something we’ll see more of or are we still at the baby steps stage?
FC: I think from an investor’s point of view, that’s going to be confusing because you’re going to have hard numbers combined with very soft numbers and I’m not so sure that’s going to make life easy. I think if you keep the soft stuff in a separate statement then the analyst can look at the hard numbers and come to a preliminary conclusion and looking at the soft numbers make some professional judgment – do you bump the number up a little bit or do you interpret it a little more cautiously. To me that’s the better state of the world.
GC: And as it stands right now, there’s no way to audit the non-financial information
FC: That’s correct.
GC: What are you doing to prepare your students at NYU for the transition?
FC: I put together a team here at Stern and we looked at all the courses that deal with financial reporting and basically I think the whole approach that we’ve taken is that our responsibility is not to teach students to memorize rules, our responsibility is to teach them how to think and think critically. We say here is an international accounting standard. Let’s talk about various measurement issues that we normally talk about and when a new standard is issued, I’ll expose you to both the U.S. standard and the international standard. For now, those two sets of standards will continue for the next several years. If the international standard is different from the U.S. standard we’ll say “here’s the implications on the financial statements and profitability, liquidity, ratios, etc.” So students can identify the impact of the different measurement framework on the financial statements.
GC: How have you balanced, from a curriculum standpoint, IFRS education and the requirements for the upcoming changes to the CPA Exam?
FC: Our approach is not to teach students to pass the CPA Exam, our approach is provide an education. Students need to learn and think critically because rules will change over time and I think it’s best to develop those critical thinking skills. We infuse international reporting standards throughout the curriculum but not in the sense where we say, “Here, memorize this rule and be able to spit it out and ace that question on the CPA exam.” We’re basically saying, “here are the standards, here are the differences, here’s how they will impact the financial statements and be aware of that.” We have a combined BS/MS in accounting program that prepares students for the 150 hours and a required international accounting and reporting course is part of that degree.
GC: So in other words, they’ve got this on lockdown and they will all be go-to experts on IFRS at their firms?
FC: I think they’ll be able to speak intelligently about IFRS but they won’t be rulebooks.
GC: What are you hearing from the firms that recruit at NYU (other than “send us the smartest ones) on this issue?
FC: I think the market likes our product because we develop those critical thinking skills and our placement rate at the Undergraduate College is close to 100%, so they like the product irrespective if they know IFRS or not because if you’re smart and have the critical thinking skills you can pick up IFRS in very short order. Given a choice between two students – one that has been exposed to IFRS and one that has not, but they’re both bright, and the firm can only take one, of course the firm will take the one with the familiarity with IFRS but I don’t think that’s ever been an issue.
GC: Back to the CPA exam. Of course everyone at NYU will be passing no problem but what about students and instructors elsewhere? Should they cram it in and get it passed in 2010 or will they be ready for the 2011 exam?
FC: I think many schools are already gearing up. We have shared our approach with many schools via workshops, conference presentations and the like. We are always ready to assist. Our approach is, “ We’ve exposed you to IFRS and if it is on the exam, youlcan get more details in a review course or you can bone up on IFRS on your own, but it shouldn’t be a big issue.
Some of you might think that Sir David Tweedie is trying evangelize IFRS all over this great U.S. GAAP land because A) he’s a wily Scotsman who isn’t afraid to wear a kilt to the office and sure as hell isn’t going to let a bunch of know-nothings tell him what’s best and B) he’s trying to throw his title.
Or maybe you just think he doesn’t care if the US of A is down with the financial reporting Kumbaya. Well Tweeds is Stateside putting everyone on notice that if that’s what you believe, you would be wrong. DEAD WRONG.
“The world is moving to a single set of high-quality global accounting standards, and this is too important an area for the U.S. not to be involved…After almost a decade of work to improve IFRS and U.S. GAAP and to seek their convergence, it’s time to finish the job.”
That’s the best he can do. And don’t bother asking him for the title, he can’t give it to you.
“As we move forward, we are committed to providing public progress reports beginning no later than October 2010 and frequently thereafter until the work is complete.”
~ SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker’s testimony for tomorrow’s hearing before the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises.
Accountancy Age reports his latest soundbite at a speech in Washington today, telling “leaders” that while their efforts to converge international accounting standards and U.S. GAAP are admirable, that he and the entire continent of Europe are getting sick of the stalling.
“I appreciate that the US authorities have made progress towards convergence, but in the EU, we are getting impatient.”
Apparently Mr Barnier has had enough with this little dance going on between the FASB and the SEC. The FASB has been punting to the SEC fairly regularly and we’re all aware of the SEC’s tendency for inaction, so maybe Barns figured that a Frenchman calling out Americans on their own turf would help move things along.
It turns out that for many of the largest global companies, all this IFRS anxiety might be completely overblown. Companies with massive accounting departments and gurus leading the IFRS charge don’t seem to be all that concerned about accounting adjustments or costs, two areas that could cause headaches for smaller companies that are forced to adopt IFRS.
At the accounting conference at Pace University last week, some of the accounting gurus from the largest global companies reacted to the switch with “meh”:
They will be “underwhelmed,” says Aaron Anderson, director, IFRS policy and implementation at IBM…”When I look at the impact on IBM and compare it to whether investors will care, frankly, I don’t think they will.”
He pointed out that if the company moves all of its financial reporting to IFRS — and some of its foreign subsidiaries are already reporting under the international standards — the change wouldn’t be material in areas that investors “care about,” such as service contracts and product backlog, which are “numbers that are not reported in GAAP, anyway.”
Unfortunately, not every company has the good fortune to have a “Director of IFRS Policy and Implementation.” For some small businesses, the IFRS adoption could very well be headed up by the CFO of the company, assisted by the controller, with a couple of senior accountants pitching in. If things really get complicated (we’re talking about accounting rules, after all), then consultants could be called in to straighten help out but at what cost?
But even companies that do have someone spearheading this effort have a few concerns. Alcoa’s IFRS implementation director said the company won’t be on board until the inventory and derivatives issues have been worked out but everything after that will be NBD:
Klingler said that Alcoa won’t bless a conversion to IFRS until issues around inventory accounting are settled. Currently, Alcoa and other U.S. companies receive a tax benefit from using the last-in, first-out (LIFO) accounting method, which is banned by IFRS. Being forced to dump LIFO could cost those companies significant cash tax payments.
Alcoa executives are also concerned with understanding how hedging rules will change, said Klingler, since the company is a commodities supplier. However, “everything else will be small numbers” with respect to accounting adjustments, he said.
So a couple big ticket issues that will certainly be resolved and then Alcoa will be marching to IFRS no problem. For small companies, dumping LIFO or figuring out hedge accounting (again) could have a huge effect.
Back to the money issue. Many are worried that since the last big change in the industry — Sarbanes-Oxley — resulted in huge compliance costs, companies will spend another king’s ransom to adopt IFRS. But again, for the largest companies, they’ve more or less got the cost of conversion nailed down and aren’t that concerned:
Anderson conceded that switching to international standards will require “a lot of work,” but added that IBM, which has already started the process of preparing for a switch, knows “within a tight range” what it will cost — and in relative terms, “it won’t be very much.”
The concession of “a lot of work” is the cause for concern for small companies. Naturally, the more complex a business, the more work will be required to adopt IFRS but at least those companies have the manpower and the resources to weather the initial learning curve. Smaller companies may find themselves short staffed which could result in need of outside expertise (and thus spending a small fortune) to make adoption happen.
Unfazed by IFRS [CFO]
All the SEC foot-dragging on IFRS may end up benefiting adopters, if only by buying them a little extra time to get things in order and figure out how on Earth to converge the encyclopedias worth of GAAP rules with IFRS’ pamphlet of principles. At a discussion on global standards hosted by the Pace University School of Business. WebCPA’s Debits and Credits shares some excellent talking points, like this winner from IBM director of IFRS policy and implementation Aaron Anderson:
“We know we have time between now and when the SEC mandates it. We can do a brisk walk instead of a sprint.”
Speaking of the SEC, Chief Accountant James Kroeker is offended by the insinuation that IFRS is more principled-based than our precious GAAP, noting in his speech that “U.S. GAAP is founded upon principles, that’s what the P is supposed to stand for.” GAAR just doesn’t have the same ring to it and it’s a tad too late to be debating semantics if you ask me.
The SEC is understandably cautious, especially having to contend with criticisms in the media over regulatory mishaps that allowed for the unchecked misdeeds of Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford, and of course Goldman Sachs (oops). Still, full-on adoption of IFRS implies a complete departure from GAAP and it doesn’t look like Kroeker is comfortable with that idea, even if companies looking to divert the estimated $32 million cost to convert to IFRS totally are.
IFRS Delay Helps Some Companies [WebCPA]
A blue ribbon panel on private company accounting is holding its inaugural meeting Monday, to assess how financial reporting standards can best meet the needs of users of US private company financial statements, which are mostly for bankers and other types of lenders.
The panel, formed by the Financial Accounting Foundation, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, will meet five times throughout the year and will issue a report with recommendations on the future of standard setting for private companies by the end of the year.
The debate has resurfaced after the International Accounting Standard Board issued international standards for private companies last July (called IFRS for SMEs). Financial experts have been discussing this topic for decades. For instance, in 1996, the Financial Executive Research Foundation issued a paper titled “What do users of private company financial statements want?”
Some of the old and new questions the panel will address:
• What is the key, decision-useful information that the various users need from GAAP financial statements?
• Are current GAAP financial statements meeting those needs?
• How does standard setting for private companies in the US compare to standard setting in other countries, both those that have adopted IFRS for small and medium-size entities and those that have not?
To the extent that current GAAP is not meeting user needs in a cost-beneficial manner, what are some possible alternatives or private company standards?
Even if GAAP is found wanting, however, the panel might not be all that keen on IFRS as an alternative, given the limited experience of US companies with the international regime and rising skepticism on the part of the Securities and Exchange Commission about the independence of the body setting international standards.
Not that public or private US companies are eager to switch to IFRS, which will be costly and cumbersome. At this point, it seems as if private ones would rather have the accounting devil they know, except they no doubt wish it were a bit less hellacious on their results. And that’s been pretty much a forlorn hope for years.
Ed. Note: This is the second installment of our dialogue with experts on International Financial Reporting Standards. See our first post with IFAC President Bob Bunting here and if you are an IFRS expert interested in joining the discussion, please contact us at email@example.com
It’s appropriate to disclaim that The Summa’s Professor David Albrecht is a friend of Going Concern and for the most part he and I share similar views on the US conversion to IFRS. If you have not read any of our previous rants
International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) will continue to be more prevalent in the accounting landscape. Regardless of the SEC’s strategy of procrastination, it is the opinion of many that it’s a matter of “when” the standards will ultimately be adopted by public companies in the United States, not “if.”
There are many questi have related to this important issue. Accordingly, we’re opening a dialogue with experts of all opinions about IFRS so that you may be better prepared for this monumental development in financial reporting.
Bob Bunting is the President of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). Mr Bunting is former Chairman of the AICPA Board of Directors and the former Chairman and CEO of Moss Adams, serving in that role from 1982 to 2004. He currently serves as the lead partner for Moss Adams’ International Services Group.
Do you support the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards in the United States? Please explain why or why not.
We definitely support the ultimate adoption of IFRS for publicly listed companies in the United States. Our principal trading partners, including Europe, Canada, China, India, Brazil, and Mexico, have already either adopted IFRS or are well on their way to a mandatory adoption date. Most U.S. public companies have at least some exposure to foreign markets and will have to grapple with IFRS even if it’s not the U.S. standard. The cost of conversion to IFRS in the United States will pale in comparison to the long-term costs of dealing with a dominant world standard (IFRS) for out-of-country reporting and having to maintain U.S. GAAP systems and reports for U.S.-only reporting.
What’s the most common argument you hear against IFRS?
There are a number of myths associated with IFRS. One is that it’s a “foreign” standard. In fact, the United States has been a dominant force in the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) from its inception, and the convergence process between the IASB and the U.S. FASB has profoundly affected the shape and direction of IFRS for many years. Another complaint is that IFRS might not be “robust” enough for the U.S. market. This comes in part from the fact that IFRS is principles-based and U.S. GAAP is rules-based. Codified U.S. GAAP runs approximately 17,000 pages of text because of its rules orientation, whereas IFRS runs fewer than 3,000 pages. Since the FASB and IASB have been on a path to converging the two standards for more than six years, it’s hard to argue that one standard is more robust than the other.
If I’m a client that is skeptical of IFRS how do you convince me that A) it’s the best thing for my company from a financial reporting perspective and B) it’s the best thing for my company from a cost perspective?
IFRS may not be the best near-term option for a purely domestic U.S.-based company. However, companies with substantial international footprints have found that the cost of operating under two standards is far greater than operating under one. This cost will seem increasingly burdensome if the United States becomes the only country in the world not using IFRS.
Does it make a difference if the United States follows one set of rules and the rest of the world follows another set of rules?
It could make a huge difference, as the U.S. banking industry discovered in the early stages of the financial crisis. A good illustration of this is the debate over fair value. Multinational companies compete for capital globally. If U.S. and international standards require different approaches to fair value, it’s highly likely that either U.S. companies or their foreign competitors may find that their respective financial performance looks better or worse under one set of standards than the other. Companies reporting under the more attractive standard may report better results. In extreme cases those results could be the difference between apparent success and technical violation of lending covenants or even bankruptcy.
It’s a big challenge for accounting professionals to keep up with the rules that they currently follow. Is it reasonable to expect them to prepare for a switch to standards that will drastically change their methods?
We recognize that many accountants might be tempted to make this argument. However, as capital, trade, and even small companies become more global, an ever-larger portion of the accounting profession has been forced to learn at least two standards (IFRS and U.S. GAAP). This large and growing portion of the accounting workforce recognizes that one standard is a lot easier to keep up with than two. As IFRS grows in its dominance—and make no mistake, it’s overwhelmingly the dominant standard—U.S. accountants run the risk of having their skills marginalized and their job prospects limited by their desire to avoid change.
Only a small number of colleges and universities are implementing international rules and standards in their curriculum. How will higher ed catch up?
I visit with many U.S. accounting professors in my role as president of IFAC. Virtually all that I have met with are introducing IFRS content in their accounting curriculum. Most seem to accept that IFRS is an eventual certainty, and they would love to have better guidance from the regulators so that they can plan for transition better. Additionally, financial reporting is only one part of an accounting education. Integrating IFRS into a curriculum should involve three or four classes out of dozens that accounting students are required to take.
How would you respond to the argument that the only people that will benefit from the conversion to IFRS are the partners in large public accounting firms?
While adoption of IFRS in the United States will create new revenues for some accounting firms, they won’t be the principal beneficiaries. I’m pretty sure that the SEC commissioners did not confirm the IFRS road map to enrich accountants of any stripe. IFRS adoption is ultimately necessary to keep U.S. businesses competitive in the global contest for capital and investors. U.S.-based multinational companies have been strong supporters of IFRS adoption as a means of reducing their financial reporting costs and ensuring a level playing field with their foreign competitors. This ultimately benefits U.S. investors, and this is whom the SEC commissioners are charged with protecting.
The SEC remains cautious with regard to IFRS. What is your reaction to their recent announcement?
The SEC is charged with protecting U.S. investor interests. They’ve expressed concern about the lack of investor input during the comment period following the original publication of the road map. They’ve committed to gathering further input from investors as part of the new work plan. The fact that the commissioners recommitted to the road map, with some changes, suggests that they think adoption of IFRS is more likely than not to be in investors’ best interests. It seems prudent to be cautious and seek more input, but we doubt that the outcome of this process will do much to change the commissioners’ decision.