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Over the weekend, I covered an obscure financial reform proposal that may mean taking away final responsibility of accounting standard-setting from FASB and creating a sort of “emergency” switch for use solely in situations of undue financial stress. This type of “escape hatch” might be familiar; the practical application of the Fed’s 13(3) rule left the door wide open for Bear Stearns and AIG.
In regards to Meet the FASB Override Button, I received a note from reader Ron with the simple rhetorical question:
Do you think a system this corrupt can survive in its present form?
He even gave me an out, qualifying the email with “No need to reply.”
Well thanks, Ron, but how in the hell am I supposed to ignore a loaded question like that?
In the article, HuffPo calls it “Civil War in Corporate America”:
Amid the ongoing financial regulation overhaul, the banking industry is hoping to pull off a quiet power grab that has eluded its grasp since the Great Depression, by stripping the independence of the board that sets financial accounting standards.
The mechanism is contained in an amendment set to be introduced in mid-November by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) that would move final authority over the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) from the Securities and Exchange Commission to a new body, a so-called “oversight” board, that would include the officials charged with managing systemic risks to the financial markets.
The Center for Audit Quality came back with a nasty letter to Barney Frank — among others — insisting that accounting setters must remain independent (implying that they have been all along). I assume that the CAQ has forgotten about FAS 157-e by now.
So do I believe in financial reform at this point? No, and I can’t say I ever did. Did I ever believe we could duct tape our way through recovery with a little accounting magic and some confident words from Tim Geithner? Yeah right.
And that therefore betrays my opinion on saving our financial system in its current form. FASB merely exists under the guise of independence, and while European accounting standard setters have a far worse reputation when it comes to allowing themselves to be politically swayed, something must change moving forward.
I doubt that an emergency FASB override button is a step in the right direction to that end.
But if they’re trying to sneak in accounting standard escape hatches, that means something must be working correctly with the currently regulatory framework – they wouldn’t be looking for ways to bypass it if it was totally useless.
Past GC coverage of Congress meddling in accounting rules:
Congress Needs More Testimony on Accounting Stuff They Won’t Understand
Barney Frank Doesn’t Legislate Accounting, He Only ‘Exerts Pressure’
Newt Gingrich Doesn’t Like the FASB