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FASB chairman's comments on mark-to-market

  • Robert Herz Image

13 Mar 2009

FASB Chairman Robert H Herz testified on 12 March 2009 about mark-to-market accounting for financial instruments before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises. Mr Herz stressed the importance of unbiased accounting standards to capital market investors.

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Here is an excerpt from Mr Herz's testimony:

While sound and transparent reporting can have economic consequences, including potentially leading to procyclical behavior, it is not the role of accounting standard setters or general-purpose external reporting to try to dampen or counter such effects. Highlighting and exposing the deteriorating financial condition of a financial institution can result in investors deciding to sell their stock in the entity, in lenders refusing to lend to it, to the company trying to shed problem assets, and to regulators and the capital markets recognizing that the institution may be in danger of failing and need additional capital....

The fact that fair value measures have been difficult to determine for some illiquid instruments is not a cause of current problems, but rather a symptom of the many problems that have contributed to the global crisis, including lax and fraudulent lending, excess leverage, the creation of complex and risky investments through securitization and derivatives, the global distribution of such investments across rapidly growing unregulated and opaque markets that lack a proper infrastructure for clearing mechanisms and price discovery, faulty ratings, and the absence of appropriate risk management and valuation processes at many financial institutions. Many of the complaints about fair value also seem to arise in the context of its impact on capital adequacy. As previously noted, while the consideration of the impact of fair value accounting on bank regulatory capital is a very important issue, it is beyond the purview of the FASB.

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