Saturday, January 17, 2009

Will the new SEC Chair derail IFRS plans?

Mary Schapiro has been nominated by Barack Obama to replace Christopher Cox as the new Chair of the SEC. The buzz in the financial and accounting press and the blogs is speculation on whether there will be a change on plans to adopt IFRS in the USA.
Back in November the SEC issued a proposed Roadmap for implementation of IFRS in the USA. Comments are due at the SEC next month. Essentially the Roadmap proposes a phased implementation of IFRS in the USA, starting in 2014. Certain companies who qualify under restricted criteria would be permitted to adopt IFRS early but would still be required to provide reports following US GAAP. It is further proposed that there would be a review by the SEC to confirm the decision to proceed based on some milestones, such as progress on standards, governance of the IASB and educational readiness among other matters. You may also be aware that the SEC eliminated the US GAAP reconciliation requirement for foreign issuers in 2007.

The SEC had announced a decision to proceed with the roadmap to SEC during the summer but there was a delay in issuance of the formal proposals which were eventually issued for comment after the US election and on the eve of the G20 meeting last November. The delay led to a lot of speculation whether there was a will to proceed in the current economic environment. Others suggested that the train has essentially left the station and this was evidenced by the active international cooperation on valuation and classification of financial instruments.
Ms. Schapiro is undergoing her confirmation process. She was reported to have said in response to a question regarding IFRS, she has concerns with the SEC’s current road map for transitioning U.S. public companies to IFRS.

“I will take a big deep breath and look at this entire area again carefully and will not necessarily feel bound by the existing road map that’s out for comment,” . See the report on the USA AICPA IFRS site

In there was an article that Obama's supporters are at loggerheads on this issue. The article Top Obama Advisers Clash on Global Accounting Standards, by David Katz and Sarah

Johnson refers to reports that Obama's economic adviser Paul Volcker has expressed support for the IASB, at at recent press conference where he delivered a ringing endorsement of the establishment of International Financial Reporting Standards as part of a retooled regulatory system that he envisions.

It is early days yet in the Obama administration and indeed it does not officially start until Tuesday. One would expect a new SEC Chair to step back and take a big breath on a topic like the IFRS Roadmap. We have still to see the comments on the proposed roadmap. Let the due process take its course. As I have reported here there are supporters and detractors. In any event the IASB and FASB are working vigorously toward conformity of standards and this exercise will proceed. I am not American and I can only comment from the viewpoint of an interested observer. It's my view that it is far too early to draw conclusions about whether IFRS is coming to America from recent comments, As an interested observer I can only say that, in my personal view,not of any organization to which I belong, it would be very unfortunate if the USA dropped out or significantly delayed IFRS adoption. We cannot surely deny that we live in a global environment? The ongoing economic crisis is delivering the message load and clear. We must deal with issues on a global basis , including financial reporting. Yes it has its difficulties but who said it had to be easy!


The IFRS Exorcist © said...

See also comments by David Albrecht on Ms. Schapiro's remarks

David Albrecht said...

Darla (aka IFRS Exorcist),

Nice post. I agree that issues need to be looked at with a global perspective. However, having a global perspective does not mean leaving behind nationality.

Should the world have one language? Why, Canada doesn't even have one language. Why should those who promote multi-languages and multiculturalism then turn around and argue for one financial reporting language. I simply don't understand.

Accounting theorists have long looked at the notion of accounting as a language. Some agree, some disagree. However, accounting theorists have looked also at accounting standards and recognize that differing national interests and objectives lead naturally to many different sets of accounting standards. It is actually non-beneficial to have a single set of accounting standards. Why, then, do people still clamor for one set of world-wide accounting standards.

I argue it is because those that want one set of standards will tend to benefit personally from the standard likely to be adopted.

It has been shown convincingly that one set of accounting standards works against comparability. It also has been shown convincingly that standardizing behind IFRS works against the interests of investors.

If one good argument for IFRS can be put forward, I'd really like to hear it.

I remain committed to defeating the U.S. movement for IFRS.

One of your biggest fans,
Dave Albrecht