Michel Barnier

Europe Finally Resorts to Making Empty Threats Over U.S. Stalling on IFRS

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 […]

Audit Reform Goodie Bag to Be Opened Tomorrow

Michel Barnier delayed things for a week – not his choice – but your anxiety should subside tomorrow:

Internal markets commissioner Barnier will present his audit reform proposals to European Parliament tomorrow, one week later than planned. […] Headline proposals include pure audit firms, mandatory joint audit and mandatory rotation, but critics claim the measures would not address Barnier’s proclaimed objectives.

Barnier’s audit reform unveiled tomorrow [Accountancy Age]

This EU Guy Really Doesn’t Like the IASB’s New Magical Fair Value Plan

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.

EU’s Barnier says won’t budge on accounting rule [Reuters]

Michel Barnier: The Big 4 Audit Model Is a Failure

Okay, those weren’t the EU financial services commissioner’s exact words but you get the sincere impression that he’s had it up to his silver coif with how things are going.

“The crisis highlighted failings in the audit sector,” Barnier said today. “These need to be explored and we need to see what improvements can be made. I believe it is important to approach this discussion in a frank and open manner. No subject should be taboo.”

Right! No subject is off limits. So what will be discussed? Well, for starters this Big 4 thing has to stop. The Telegraph reports, “If one of the Big Four – PricewaterHouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young – were to collapse the Paper suggests it could create systemic risk for the financial markets.”

Secondly, the notion of independence and “putting shareholders” first is a sham. ‘Berg reports:

Restrictions on auditor choice may reduce “distortion within the system” caused by auditing firms acting in the interests of their clients rather than shareholders when compiling reports on a companies’ financial health, the commission said in a report outlining possible measures.

[…]

The commission said it’s also considering rules that would force companies to change their auditing firms after a fixed period of time.

Forcing companies to rotate their auditors would “enhance the independence of auditors” and “operate as a catalyst to introduce more dynamism and capacity into the audit market,” the commission said.

Lastly, can a Frenchman get some choice up in this mofo?

The top four accounting firms have a market share of about 90 percent in the majority of EU member states, according to the commission’s report.

“The market appears to be too concentrated in certain segments and deny clients sufficient choice when deciding on their auditors,” the commission said.

Barnier isn’t asking for a full-blown cafeteria but for crissakes, the choices right now are chicken, chicken, and….chicken. Sure, they might have slightly different recipes (e.g. KPMG a little spicy/sweet, PwC is in a cream sauce) but it’s all chicken. And Barnier HATES chicken.

Companies May Lose Right to Pick Auditing Firms Under European Union Plans [Bloomberg]
EU markets chief Barnier plans radical overhaul of audit industry [Telegraph]

Some French Guy Still Trying To Tell the U.S. What to Do Re: IFRS

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]

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]