Banks Cheer FASB's Delay of Rule on Writing Down Debt

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on Wednesday delayed a rule that would force companies to reduce the value of debt securities because of rising interest rates.

The new guideline called for financial services firms to recognize certain losses in their bond holdings each quarter, even if the losses are caused only by higher interest rates, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The delay is "a sigh of relief" to banks, said Donna Fisher, the director of tax and accounting at the American Bankers Association. "It will clear up the uncertainty about banks' risk-management practices in the short term." The rule was opposed by the bankers group, life insurance companies, financial institutions and mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Not only did the accounting rule-maker agree to delay implementation of the rule, it also decided to provide additional guidance on how to implement it. The Journal reported that FASB staff may suggest that companies don't have to write down bond losses triggered by rising interest rates if the reduction in the bonds' value is “insignificant.”

Fisher told the newspaper that "the jury is still out" on the practicability of the implementation guidance.

The guidance will be available for public comment for 45 days, and FASB aims to put the guidance in place in December.

The proposed requirement is part of a group of guidelines called EITF 03-1. Guidelines on other issues, such as when to book losses in equity portfolios, will be implemented on schedule.

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