John Carney comments on Sheila Bair’s bellyaching about mark-to-market today by simply wondering why there has to be a debate at all. That is, couldn’t accounting rules just be served up – presumably buffet style – and the banks would choose which treatment they like best and then regulators could judge their health based on their choices:
Here’s what I don’t get: why do we need one set of accounting standards at all? To put it differently, why should banking regulators feel obliged to judge the safety and soundness of financial institutions according to any measure that they do not like? If Bair doesn’t think fair value is appropriate to the banking sector, can’t she just ignore fair value when judging whether banks satisfy regulatory requirements?
It’s an interesting question. Why does the FDIC care what fair value says when determining bank health? Analysts use and refer to non-GAAP data all the time, so what difference does it make if regulators rationalize their analysis on similar non-GAAP measures?
After explaining that, despite the complaints of a certain billionaire (among others), transparency is actually a good thing, Carney floats an idea:
My truly radical proposal is that we should probably do away with this argument altogether by allowing banks—and every other company for that matter—to choose which accounting standards they want to use. If amortized cost is truly a better standard, banks using that will surely be rewarded by higher stock prices and cheaper access to credit. On the other hand, if fair value is appropriate, the market will reward that. Why not let banks choose and bear the costs of their choice?
While we’re with John in spirit (especially for the banks, they run things after all), the BSDs in the accounting will never let this fly. The idea of letting individual companies determine what accounting rules to follow is enough to cause Big 4 partners to set themselves on fire in the middle of Union Square in protest.
However, if you’ve got thoughts on we could put this thing in motion, it might be kind of fun to see how it works out.
As you might expect, there’s been a fair amount of outrage about the PwC Ireland Hottie List 2010. Revenge ideas are already being floated and we were pointed to the following comment over at Gawker (although we can’t seem to find it now):
If PricewaterhouseCoopers fails to act promptly and decisively on this, the women of the company have a couple of other ways to achieve justice.
My favorite is taking a full page ad in the business section of the leading newspapers… featuring corporate photos, titles, and marital status of the 17 men. The copy would say: “Instead of working on YOUR accounts, these men spend their time imagining their coworkers as sexual objects.”
The copy would be 100% true and provable, so it ought to get published. The wives, girlfriends, neighbors, and churchgoers can take it from there. Any of these men will find it harder to go on an out-of-town trip or stay late in the office without getting mangled in the wringer. And PWC will face questions about its billable hours.
If PWC still fails to act, the next ad can feature the same men, but the copy will say, “There were 13 people on their Top-10 List. Do you really want them auditing YOUR books?”
The 13/10 idea is quite brilliant and we suspect other firms (with the exception of KPMG) to capitalize on it immediately.
It’s been said “the best revenge is living well,” but since these ladies work at PwC, there’s virtually no chance of that. It’s also not clear at this time what firm the action is taking against the perps. Accordingly, some ideas from the peanut gallery are in order for revenge/punishment. Ideas might include:
1) Forced sobriety on the dudes in question.
2) Giving them the horrendous responsibility to respond to all the questions regarding the colors and shapes used in PwC’s new logo.
3) Send them to China with no language training.
That’s just to get your brains working. Leave suggestions below.