SEC concern about 'IFRSs as adopted in...'

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11 Mar 2007

In an address in London last week titled SEC Regulation Outside the United States, US SEC Commissioner Roel C Campos expressed concern about jurisdictions adopting their own versions of IFRSs and about how few foreign SEC registrants actually refer to conformity with IFRSs as promulgated by the IASB.

An excerpt:

I must, however, focus on one curious aspect of the roadmap in practice, which is the lack of foreign private issuers filing audited financial statements with the SEC that either use or are compliant with IFRS in the manner in which it is issued by the IASB. We had expected to see approximately 300 or so companies file their 2005 financial statements prepared using IFRS. Instead, we received only about 40 filings – hardly a critical mass. This fact is perplexing, given that the early goal is – to quote the roadmap itself – 'to see convergence in action.' So, the question is: why did only 40 companies so file?

The answer is that there are likely a number of different reasons, and our Deputy Chief Accountant Julie Erhardt discussed the possibilities in a speech she gave at the AICPA conference last December. I want to focus on just one of the reasons here, which is that, in many cases, financial statements prepared in accordance with home country adaptation of IFRS did not also contain a reference by both the company and its auditor that the financial statements also complied with IFRS in the form issued by the IASB. Indeed, the roadmap contemplated that we would see filings of financial statements prepared using IFRS as promulgated by the IASB. However, various jurisdictions have not accepted IFRS exactly as promulgated by the IASB, and have instead made various changes thereto. Consequently, as Julie noted, we have seen filings containing financial statements based upon national jurisdictional adaptations of IFRS. In and of themselves, these financial statements certainly fit within the SEC's filing requirements, but without the reference to IFRS as promulgated by the IASB, they do not appear to be financial statements that fit under the one set of global accounting standards that we wrote about in the roadmap.

Now, we certainly understand why a jurisdiction may wish to adopt its own version of IFRS. However, one goal of the roadmap was to allow the elimination of the reconciliation requirement, and as a consequence, have two versions of robust standards developed by independent standard setters in the U.S. capital markets, not thirty different versions. The question then occurs: how do we reach the 'critical mass' – to use a term from the roadmap – of filers using IFRS as promulgated by the IASB? What will happen this year – year two of the roadmap? While the answer is not clear at this time, I think that serious discussion by issuers with their auditors may be necessary. I am hopeful that auditors could prepare opinions stating that the audited financial statements were prepared according to IFRS as promulgated by the IASB, and not solely the 'Jurisdiction X IFRS'. In any event, we need to get to the bottom of this issue, and see more companies filing audited financial statements in the manner contemplated by the roadmap. My bottom line, though, is that the roadmap is going well overall and that we will achieve our objectives.

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