If you get the feeling that we’ve been here before, you’re right. I’m talking about the convergence efforts of the two accounting standards organizations – FASB and IASB. After all, they have been at it for nearly ten years, so the probability of my addressing it at one time or another are quite high. Well, at the end of January the two boards renewed their efforts to find common ground in the development of standards and disclosure requirements. “The boards have been urged to converge their standards on financial instruments. Today’s decision to work together on key differences—which represent the most significant remaining differences between the decisions reached to date—is responsive to stakeholders in the US and abroad”, said FASB Chairman Leslie Seidman. A commitment with a rhyme – what could go wrong?
As an optimist, I want to believe that it can happen, and there certainly are signs that indicate that it just might come to fruition. Of course, if you’re a pessimist, you are just as likely to find many signs to indicate that it won’t happen. If the renewed talks aren’t enough evidence for you, then you may want to consider a staff paper that the SEC issued back in May, 2011, titled “Work Plan for the Consideration of Incorporating International Financial Reporting Standards into the Financial Reporting System for U.S. Issuers”. That paper explores the incorporation of IFRS, and is essentially an approach combining elements of convergence and endorsement, thus coining the now popular phrase, “Condorsement”. With an endorsement approach, jurisdictions would simply incorporate an individual IFRS standard into their standards, while a convergence approach keeps local standard and attempts converge them with IFRS. The condorsment approach suggests a phased one, where the scheduled convergence projects continue to move forward while seeking areas where endorsements of individual IFRS make sense.
The concept of allowing corporations to adopt IFRS reporting is not that new. It was first pitched in 2008 by then SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, and there now seems to be some serious momentum behind the proposal. Even though the SEC recently delayed its decision on the topic, IASB Chairman Hans Hoogervorst remains confident that SEC will ultimately decide to go with IFRS. In a recent speech given at an Ernst & Young IFRS seminar in Moscow, Hoogervorst stated, “The US already has developed a sophisticated set of financial reporting standards over many decades. Transitional concerns have to be carefully considered. That is why I have supported the general approach for the endorsement of IFRSs described by the SEC staff’s work plan. It is also important to note that the US is committed to supporting global accounting standards. It is SEC policy, it is US Government policy and it is the policy of the G20, in which the US is a key player. “
Most of the G20 member countries currently require the use of IFRS. Also, more than a hundred countries globally currently allow or require IFRS reporting. Detractors call IFRS Euro-centric. I find that interesting, since much of the seeding for the standards in IFRS were a result of groundwork laid out by FASB. In a global economy, it is essential that we end up with a uniform approach. So let’s keep it moving along – make it international and rational. I love rhymes.