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January 26, 2023

#TBT: Former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox on The SEC’s IFRS Roadmap

The great thing about speeches these days is that they generally live in perpetuity on the Internet, even if the speech-makers would hope that we have forgotten them. Oh, you wish.

Today's Throwback Thursday comes from deep in former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox's closet. Made in March of 2007, over a year before the SEC would reveal its much-awaited but now all-but-abandoned roadmap to IFRS, he discusses how the transition to a single global financial reporting standard has been in the works for so long, there's really no going back. And here's why:

Have you ever tried to refold a roadmap? It's not pretty. Not only is it impossible to divine which side folds where, but you're generally required to make the attempt while the car is in motion, and the driver is yelling, and you're not entirely sure whether you're on the right track, or else you wouldn't need the map in the first place. So we're not going to refold the map, or try to stuff it, creased and mutilated, back into the glove box.

Now, reading that 7 years later, in a world without physical, paper roadmaps (I mean really, when was the last time you used an actual roadmap?), his comparison seems silly. After all, you can easily back out of Google Maps, no inconvenient paper folding required.

To hear Chris Cox tell it back then, agreeing on a single global standard was sort of like taking a cross-country trip with your parents, annoying little sister, the foreign exchange student who has overstayed her welcome at your house, and weird druncle. Your dad is a crappy driver, your mom won't stop yapping, the foreign exchange student doesn't understand the conversion from kilometers to miles and keeps trying to give you crappy directions, and your druncle has the shakes too hard to properly fold a map.

As we all know, that didn't really work out. The SEC sort of folded the map into a ball, shoved it under the seat, and threw it away after it got covered in spilled soda.


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