September 21, 2019

Accounting Standard Convergence

#TBT: Convergence of International Accounting Standards Before Convergence Was Cool*

If you are one of the lucky few who has taken the CPA exam since IFRS was added into the mix, you may be surprised to know we've actually been at this whole convergence thing for some time. Except it wasn't always called convergence. Says FASB: The 1960s—Calls for International Standards and Some Early StepsInterest […]

Why Is the CPA Exam Testing IFRS If Even the AICPA Says We Won’t Use It For at Least Five Years?

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 […]

Surprising Absolutely No One, FASB Pushing Back Their Convergence Timeline

Floored. Just floored.

Financial Accounting Standards Board chair Leslie Seidman said that many of the priority projects slated for convergence with the International Accounting Standards Board probably will not be settled until next year at the earliest.

Les will have all you haters know that this adjusted timeline has been well received by those that are taking this shit seriously:

This is a real process with real outreach and real consideration of the issues that have been raised. And the fact of the matter is that it takes time to work through these issues. The changes which we have made to the timetable, which we have made jointly with the IASB, have been very well received among the constituents who take this process seriously. They are very supportive of our strong commitment to making sure that we end up with improved standards here that are going to stand the test of time.

So if you were expecting Fisher Price accounting rules, you can forget it. These beautiful babes will be used to line up the debits and credits when Spacely Sprockets finally breaks ground.

FASB’s Convergence Timeline Moves to Next Year [AT via Jim Peterson]

FASB and IASB Hand-Holding Agenda Nears Completion, Or So We Hear

We’re sure all of you have been anxious for an update since the last FASB/IASB progress report last November, wait no longer.

Here’s what we’re proud of having accomplished since:

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.

If You Never Write Another FASB Comment Letter In Your Life…

… please answer this with your best explanation of your position. I’ll go on record saying I am expecting comment letters stuffed with expletives, paranoia, panic and conjecture and personally can’t wait to read some of them.

“Quirky” representatives of the Profession, you know who you are. I want long rambling anti-IFRS manifestos dammit, don’t disappoint me.

Your mission:

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB or Board) is issuing this Discussion Paper to solicit information from stakeholders about the time and effort that will be involved in adapting to several anticipated new accounting and reporting standards and when those standards should become effective. The FASB will use that information to develop an implementation plan for those new standards that helps stakeholders manage the pace and cost of change. The FASB requests comments on this Discussion Paper by January 31, 2011.

The question FASB would like answered is “how the fuck are we going to pay for this convergence thing?” and they’re asking the profession to come up with solutions. I imagine some pockets of the profession couldn’t care less how much it will cost as they are only thinking about learning the new rules because, well, someone’s got to do it, right?

Don’t misunderstand it, they would also like to know if they should transition all at once or gradually, if effective dates should be different for various entities and just how many billable hours might be lost to figuring all of this out. So basically they need you guys to get on this ASAP because they’ve had several years to do it and are still lost.

The request is simple:

“Our joint workplan supporting the Memorandum of Understanding with the IASB identifies targeted completion dates for various projects, but does not address when the standards would be effective,” notes Acting FASB Chairman Leslie F. Seidman. “We issued this Discussion Paper to gather the information we need to create a realistic, cost-effective plan for transitioning to the new standards.”

In other words: can you guys ballpark the timeframe and how we’re going to pay for it? I’d rather see the profession spend its quality billable time writing comment letters on its opinion of the transition and/or FASB’s handling of it. I think you fringe accountants know what to do, so I thank you in advance.

Does Anyone Care About Fair Value Anymore?

Fair value is a simple enough concept even if you aren’t an accountant: stuff is worth what you could sell it for in the normal course of business, so that’s what you value it as when you’re adding up the value of the stuff you have. Easy, right? Not so easy when it comes to convergence.

The IASB has already expressed distaste for our fair value rules (among other things) and Accounting Onion recently shared some concerns that convergence might require a reasonable definition of “High Quality Accountant Standards” (abbreviated HQAS” by AO) agreed upon by both FASB and the IASB. So far I haven’t seen it, has anyone else?

Wait, AO launches off into it fhan I ever could.

Moreover, if there are some doubts as to what HQAS is, the SEC’s view could have been attended to more closely at the outset of formal convergence efforts (October 2002); for surely the SEC had convergence in mind when they published their congressionally mandated (see the Sarbanes Oxley Act, Section 108(d)) report on the feasibility of “principles-based” accounting standards in August 2003. According to the SEC, the “objectives-oriented” standards they are looking for from a standard setter should possess the following qualities:

“Be based on an improved and consistently applied conceptual framework;

Clearly state the accounting objective of the standard;

Provide sufficient detail and structure so that the standard can be operationalized and applied on a consistent basis;

Minimize exceptions from the standard;

Avoid use of percentage tests (“bright-lines”) that allow financial engineers to achieve technical compliance with the standard while evading the intent of the standard.”

Now, seven years later, the SEC’s battle plans have been subordinated by the din and desperation of convergence wars. Are any new standards from either board “based on an improved and consistently applied conceptual framework”? Obviously not, for nary a single alteration to any conceptual framework document has occurred in the last seven years. The existing definitions for assets and liabilities are like wooden ships sent to battle against nuclear submarines.

A few weeks back, I talked to David Larsen, CPA, Managing Director of global advising firm Duff & Phelps, LLP about this fair value bullshit that complicates my life by requiring comment every few weeks. David participated on the SEC mark-to-market panel in November of 2008 and serves on FASB’s Valuation Resource Group so he’s familiar with what I’m talking about.

David believes public opinion dominates the fair value argument and really doesn’t see what the big deal is. “The goal is to make financial statements more readable,” he said of fair value’s ultimate intention. He’s a fan of transparency on the face of financial statements and more disclosures. Who doesn’t like that?

He says fair value is purely measurement and disclosure, nothing to get upset about.

In my opinion, fair value was our first test to see if we could handle the principles widely used in international accounting “standards” (hopefully “HQAS”) before we actually committed to adopting them and we failed. If you wonder why the IASB wants to hold the floor when it comes to convergence, you only have to stare our treatment of fair value right between the eyes.

It should have worked but our “P for Principles” in GAAP didn’t adequately prepare us to handle it.

Michel Barnier: EU Is ‘Impatient’ with SEC, FASB Pussyfooting Around on Accounting Standard Convergence

Michel Barnier is certainly doing his damnedest to make a name for himself by virtue of the accounting standards convergence and scrutinizing the role of auditors.

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.

Barnier tells US that Europe is “getting impatient” on accounting convergence [Accountancy Age]

You Can’t Force Convergence According to the IASB (Allegedly)

IASB member Phillippe Danjou would be happy to see convergence go well and according to schedule but like most of Europe, he’s concerned that what’s good for America may not be good for the rest of the world.

Earlier in the week, the European Central Bank said nearly the same thing, going so far as to call out FASB for its archaic fair value rules that disregard liquidity (or lack thereof) in markets.


“Can we converge on everything? What’s good for America is not always seen as being good for the rest of the world, and vice versa… Convergence is the aim. It is a very desirable goal, but you cannot force it.

“If our stakeholders say we should take slightly different solutions, we will have to accept that,” he said. “If we can’t reach a solution, we can bridge.”

This brings us right back to the question of the IASB’s independence and the announcement by the SEC that funding the IASB would be a priority moving forward. Maybe that’s the bridge to which Danjou was referring; America buying its own piece of international accounting standard influence. 20% won’t cut it, people, where did the SEC get those bribe numbers from anyway?

It looks like Plan B for accounting convergence [Reuters]

The SEC Wants to Help the IASB Meet its ‘Arbitrary Deadline’

The SEC is interested in securing capital markets and protecting the interests of investors by putting a new level of priority on accounting standards setters… European accounting standards setters, that is.

SEC Chief Accountant James “P is For Principles” Kroeker announced today that the SEC’s new project will revolve around securing funding for the gatekeepers of IFRS, the IASB. “A stable broad based funding system with a diversity of capital market participants providing ‘no strings attached’ funding is of great importance to establishing a structurally sound international standards setter,” he said at a Baruch College accounting conference. Earlier in the week, JP was defending GAAP and calling the planned June 2011 adoption of IFRS in the US an “arbitrary” target but this leads us to believe that he’s since changed his mind and would like to see this convergence thing get rolling once and for all.


About 20 percent of the IASB’s funding is expected to come from US sources this year – the largest chunk of funding from any single source.

While Kroeker was busy cheerleading the IASB telethon this week, SEC Chair Mary Schapiro was off doing a little fundraising of her own, except hers failed miserably when the Senate rejected a request by Schapiro and several former SEC leaders to self-fund the agency. As everyone knows, the SEC has been plagued recently with accusations of regulatory laziness, not to mention problems with employees sitting around watching porn all day when they should be guarding capital markets. No increase in allowance for you, Mary!

Anyway, the main concern is – as always – independence. Without secure funding, the IASB is exposed to excessive political pressure and if you recall the fair value debate, you have already seen what happens when standards setters cave in. With secure funding, the IASB can be bought and sold as easily as some companies A/Rs so it makes sense that Kroeker would shift the SEC’s focus from begging Congress for a raise to funneling in cash to the IASB. You know, for convergence’s sake.

US seeks secure funding of global accounting board [Reuters]

SEC’s No Rush Stance on IFRS Means a Nice Stroll Towards Convergence, You Know, Whenever

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]

The ECB Doesn’t Like FASB Fair Value Nor Prospects for a Single Global Standard Come 2011

European Central Bank Executive Board member Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerel insists that fair value is useless in illiquid (read: dysfunctional or non-existent) markets, putting forth the all-important query “what is the use of marking-to-market when there is no market?” in a Paris speech yesterday.

Tumpel-Gugerel is also a tad concerned that the push for convergence around the globe by 2011 could mean compromised accounting standards. “The ECB strongly opposes a full fair value approach,” she said. “In this context, convergence should not come at the expense of high-quality accounting standards.”


The ECB has taken the financial crisis as a lesson in valuation, guidance, and a deft accounting system that leaves plenty of slack available for adjustments should the need arise in, say, a crisis situation. That’s all well and good but guidance only gets you so far and without a firm commitment to when and how to use fair value around the globe, we can pretty much keep debating this point indefinitely.

Her views on FASB’s fair value approach are not at all subtle. In short, it appears as though the ECB supports convergence but only if the idiotic American ways are better aligned with the IASB’s. “With regard to recent assertions made by the IASB and FASB that convergence is on track, I would like to highlight that we are not so optimistic,” she said. “In this regard, putting in place a reconciliation mechanism that simply discloses figures at amortised cost and fair value for each item on the balance sheet would certainly not achieve the aim of convergence.”

Well snap, guess she told us.

Elements for intervention on accounting issues [ECB]

Convergence of Accounting Rules Is Still a Pipe Dream

God forbid I go so far as to say this whole convergence thing is a conspiracy but it’s starting to reek like a bad Saturday morning cartoon plot. First the evil leaders start scamming for world domination, then they form shady alliances in darkened lairs and eventually the population gets sold into slavery until the hero comes and drops the villains in a vat of acid. Or something like that. If global financial “reform” were a Saturday morning cartoon, we’d be horribly overrun with villains and in desperate need of a hero.

Since it’s real life, all we can do is watch.


Compliance Week:

A spokesman for IASB said the two boards are expected to issue their first joint quarterly progress report very soon. A spokesman for FASB said the various project updates posted by the two boards demonstrates “quite a bit of progress” in recent months.

“We remain committed to working with IASB,” said spokesman Chris Klimek. “(We) appreciate the SEC’s leadership and additional guidance on this important matter, and like everyone, we will be studying the work plan carefully in the days ahead and discussing what it means for us.”

It’s cool! There’s a plan for convergence and here it goes: the SEC waits around for the FASB and IASB to figure out how to convert GAAP statement to IFRS without costing American companies billions ($35 million/year x companies converting = well you get it). Eventually, they might just figure this out. In the meantime, kick back and don’t get too worked up over it, the two bodies are still battling it out because of the same cultural barriers that have always stood in the way of a true marriage of FASB/IASB positions.

As Number Insights pointed out in 2007 (see how long we’ve been trying to do this? And what do we have to show for it?), a single set of principles might not be the bad part of this entire plan. GAAP is notoriously constrictive but principles-based accounting requires qualified accountants and I’m not sure our accountants are quite ready either, ignoring the costs associated. And a world without FASB? I can’t imagine it.

It doesn’t look like I’ll have to any time soon.

Non-Knights Don’t Think Rule Convergence Is All That Important

Thumbnail image for tweedie_knight_jpeg.jpgNot everyone is as hung up on converging U.S. GAAP and IFRS as Sir David Tweedie.
As you may recall, Tweeds delayed his retirement in order to see the rules copulate and bring forth debit and credit harmony.
As admirable as his commitment to the project is, not too many people share his enthusiasm:

A survey by CFA Institute , an international association of more than 16,000 investment professionals, showed that three quarters of respondents believe that improving standards so they are more useful for making investment decisions is “at least as important if not more important” than reducing complexity or convergence.
While respondents generally support convergence, only 6 per cent of those surveyed, including research analysts, portfolio managers, corporate financial analysts and accountants, believe converging the International Accounting Standards Board and its US rival should be the primary objective.

It’s bad enough that Tweeds gets hassled by non-knighted clowns that don’t know a debit from their ass but now there’s a survey out there that says his pet project isn’t that important.
Plus, the SEC doesn’t seem too hung up on it and the FASB has its own problems. Has double-entry chivalry lost all its meaning?
Investors cool on audit convergence [FT]

Sir David Tweedie’s New Promise: To Retire in 2011

Every knight lays down his sword at some point and Tweeds is no exception. The IASB Chairman will hang up his 10-key when his current term ends in June 2011.

According to Emily Chasan at Reuters, DT thought about calling it quits last year after the pols torpedoed mark-to-market in the name of bank lobbyists. Sensing that the true Holy Grail was within reach, Tweedie stayed on:

[H]e has said he stayed because he wanted to continue the convergence process, which is beginning to reach its goal of having a single set of high quality accounting standards used around the globe. The U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board and the IASB have redoubled efforts to complete their major convergence projects by a June 2011 deadline set by the G20 group of leading countries.

Now the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation, which oversees the board, is on the search for the next bean counter in shining armor. Since Tweeds gave plenty of notice, it won’t likely be the shitshow search like Bank of America has on its hands (until very recently perhaps) but the IASCF is searching all the corners of the world for the replacement and they need to come up with somebody good.
If they put some empty suit in there, the likes of Silvio Berlusconi will be writing the revised contingent liabilities standard. Lord knows we don’t need that. We need someone that doesn’t mind telling pols to BTFO of accounting biznass. Pols like Eddy “If you had just involved us in the monitoring of the IASB we wouldn’t be in this mess” Wymeersch, who probably couldn’t tell the difference between his ass and the basic accounting equation. Feel me, IASCF?
Now since that’s clear, if you’ve got any suggestions or purely want to speculate on who you will be in the big chair next (Tim Flynn? Mary Schapiro? Phil Mickelson? that smug guy in the cube next to you that got a 98 on FARE?) drop them in the comments.
IASB’s Tweedie to retire when term ends in 2011 [Emily Chasan/Reuters]
Trustees seek nominations for Chairman of the IASB from 2011 [Press Release]
See also: Kroeker Stresses Importance of Investors in IFRS Decision; Search Is On For Next Chairman Of IASB When Tweedie Retires in 2011 [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]

Your CFO Might Be Clueless about How IFRS Will Affect Your Company

accountant.jpgIn some very comforting news, CFO’s in a recent poll said they’re unsure about how at transition to IFRS would affect their company.
More scary stats include 8% of those surveyed said that they are “very familiar” with how their company will be affected and 43% said they were not familiar at all. So what does all of this IFRS ignorance mean?
Check out the list after the jump


A) Lots of CFO’s don’t give a rat crap
2) Lots of CFO’s don’t really believe IFRS will come to the States
D) Lots of CFO’s need to work on their qualifications
The obtuseness may work out though. At the pace the conversion debate is going, by the time the conversion gets done we’ll all be dead.
Survey: CFOs unsure how international rules will affect U.S. business [DBJ]

Why IFRS is Similar to an Obscure Reality TV Program

jon-and-kate.jpgLate on Friday we told you about the rager that the IFAC was throwing over the weekend in London and today we get the less than surprising news that they want the governments of the world to push for global accounting standards.
“According to IFAC, participants at the conference agreed that the public interest would best be served by a single set of high-quality, principles-based financial reporting and auditing standards for listed and public interest entities.”
The problem with this whole push for IFRS is that getting anyone to care about accounting rules is like trying to get men interested in the whole Jon & Kate Plus 8 drama. They’re completely clueless at first mention and when you attempt to get into the details interest is immediately lost.
Leading accountants tell governments quicken pace of global standards adoption [Accountancy Age]

Try to Do Something Constructive this Weekend, Like Get the Whole IFRS Debate Settled

In what might be the biggest rager of the weekend, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) are meeting today and tomorrow in London to get down to brass tacks on the whole global meltdown thing.
Also on the agenda for the IFAC: Coming up with a plan to get one set of global accounting standards, and also figure out how to convince the likes of Maxine Waters to BTFO of accounting rules and stick to cooking up dead-end legislation on banning of credit default swaps.
Let us know how it goes.
Accountants’ Group Calls for Single Set of International Rules [Bloomberg]

Score One for U.S. GAAP

two thumbs up.jpegU.S. GAAP just got a little boost in its image versus its sexy rival, IFRS, courtesy of Audit Integrity, a research services firm.
Audit Integrity studied filings by European companies from 2001 to 2008, looking at filings both pre and post IFRS adoption. The objectives were, “to determine whether IFRS has been implemented consistently across Europe, whether it has resulted in a common method of reporting financial data, and how the depth and comparability of data under IFRS compares to U.S. GAAP.”
At first glance, one might think that with all the bashing of U.S. GAAP in recent years that this was IFRS chance to prove once and for all that it was the new cock of the walk.
Well, not so fast GAAP haters:

“Based on our analysis, we are not seeing a significant improvement in financial reporting when companies shift to IFRS,” said Jack Zwingli, CEO of Audit Integrity. “We found that IFRS is a common standard, but there are significant variances in IFRS reporting, in the completeness of information, the timeliness and the filing frequency.”

Sounds like IFRS ain’t all that does it? You want more?

The firm says overall there are indications that financial reporting is more consistent and more comparable under IFRS than before IFRS adoption in Europe, but it’s not clear that IFRS represents an improvement over U.S. GAAP. In fact, the firm’s report says GAAP filers may have an edge over IFRS filing in terms of the timeliness, depth and breadth of financial data provided to investors.

Ouch, IASB. You want the best part? The Europeans disclose less on executive compensation than we do here in America. You’re all familiar with how popular corporate executives are. To wit:

[Jack] Zwingli [Audit Integrity CEO] said he was also surprised that the analysis revealed IFRS generally provides less information about executive compensation. “It’s not good in the United States, but it’s better than it is in Europe,” he said. “There is more consistency in reporting and deeper coverage of data under GAAP than under IFRS.”

Seems like IFRS has got work to do…IASB, you can call us when you want to get serious.

Study Pokes Holes in IFRS Reporting Quality, Consistency
[Accounting & Auditing Update/Compliance Week]