CICA statement on fair value accounting for investments

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09 Oct 2008

The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants has issued a Statement on Fair Value Accounting by Paul Cherry, Chair, Canadian Accounting Standards Board.

Mr Cherry's message is, in a nutshell, fair value measurement of financial instruments reflects the reality in the marketplace today. Historical cost does not. Don't blame accounting for telling it like it is. Click to Download the Statement (PDF 38k). Here is an excerpt:

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles require many investments in stocks and bonds to be measured at fair value. Investments carried at cost must be assessed for impairment at the time of reporting and, if determined to be impaired, must be written down to their estimated fair value as at the balance sheet date. Basically, Canadian companies are being asked to make a realistic estimate of the holding's fair value as at the balance sheet date and then clearly explain to investors how that figure was determined. In determining a holding's fair value, companies must estimate the price that market participants would sell for, or buy at, in an active liquid market, if there were one.

In times of financial crisis, it is natural to ask: 'What went wrong?' Some people blame the current crisis on the increased use of fair value accounting for financial instruments. Yes, measuring fair value in turbulent times can be very difficult, but the huge swings in market prices reflect the reality of the marketplace. Do we really want financial statements based on management's guess as to what market prices might be in 'normal' conditions at some point in the future? There is a growing realization that the accounting requirements are not to blame. Fair value accounting tells investors and the public 'the way it is'.


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