SEC speeches on IFRSs at the annual AICPA conference

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10 Dec 2015

At the annual American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments currently taking place in Washington, D.C., representatives of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) spoke at surprising length about IFRSs in the United States.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White delivered the keynote address and commented on the recommendation related to IFRS supplemental information introduced by SEC Chief Accountant Jim Schnurr at the same conference a year ago. She added: "This proposal has the potential to be a useful next step, and the staff has now developed a recommendation for the Commission’s consideration, which staff will be discussing with all of the Commissioners so that we can determine the path forward."

SEC Chief Accountant James V. Schnurr confirmed that "[t]he staff will be in discussions with the Commissioners regarding certain regulatory changes that would facilitate the ability of domestic issuers to provide IFRS-based information as a supplement to U.S. GAAP financial statements". He also encouraged IASB and FASB to continue their work on convergence and added: "In my view, continued collaboration is the only realistic path to further the objective of a single set of high-quality, global accounting standards."

Deputy Chief Accountant Julie A. Erhardt gave the only speech that was entirely focused on the U.S. engagement with IFRSs and on the goal of a single set of high-quality global accounting standards. In addition to pointing out the shared origins, shared knowledge, and shared benefits of international accounting she also commented on the overseas perception of developments in the U.S.:

[M]y impression is that at least some overseas do not anticipate that within the foreseeable future the U.S. will decide to adopt IFRS for financial reporting by our domestic public companies. My impression is that these individuals are not particularly resentful about this — maybe more like disappointed — because they recognize that for one reason or another IFRS is not seen in the U.S. as a realistic policy idea for this purpose at this time. My sense is that they know from their own experiences that generally the acknowledged legitimacy of an idea is a necessary precursor to policy making.

However, Ms Erhardt also makes out worries regarding U.S. involvement in and support of IFRSs. Referencing back to the comments made by Chair White and Chief Accountant Schnurr she hints that a statement on the future of IFRS in the United States might provide some reassurance in this regard:

If U.S. involvement with IFRS is now to come in a completely ad hoc manner, this could give rise to concerns that there is no memorialized intention or longer term plan for parties from the U.S. to stay engaged with and be supportive of IFRS. A further statement by the Commission on global accounting standards, as discussed by the Chair earlier today, might help to provide reassurance and clarity in this regard.

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You can also access all SEC speeches given at the conference (including many that are not IFRS related) through the constantly updated SEC page with speeches by the Chair, Commissioners, and staff.

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