SEC Chief Accountant warns against superimposing additional objectives onto general purpose financial reporting

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Jun 06, 2018

On June 6, 2018, Wesley R. Bricker, Chief Accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), gave a speech at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) on the topic of "The intersection of financial reporting and innovation". While the speech was far more wide ranging, it also contained two messages regarding financial reporting.

The first point made in relation to financial reporting regarded general purpose financial reporting, special purpose financial reporting, and the expectation gap that results from confusing or mixing these two forms of reporting. While general purpose financial reports come with the objective of providing financial information about the reporting entity that is useful to existing and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors in making decisions about providing resources to the entity, special purpose financial reports are prepared using a particular framework to address specific needs of specific users and these frameworks can include intentions to achieve a certain behaviour. Mr Bricker warned against applying expectations regarding special purpose financial reports to general purpose financial reports and against beginning standard-setting with additional objectives in mind that go beyond providing decision useful financial information.

Nevertheless, Mr. Bricker expressed the belief that general purpose financial reporting needs to continue to evolve and the standard-setters must continue to strive to set standards that provide the best information to a broad baseline of investors and investment advisers while preparers need to use judgement in applying the standards.

The second point Mr. Bricker made followed on from the need to continue to advance general purpose financial reporting to address expectations around financial reporting and any gaps that might exist. He stressed that everyone in the financial reporting structure needs to support the work of the accounting standard-setters and that thinking needs to be shared.

Review the full speech on the SEC's website.

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