International Showdown Brewing Over Accounting Standards

The International Accounting Standards Board, formed earlier this year to " promote convergence on a single set of high-quality, understandable, and enforceable global accounting standards" announced its technical agenda earlier this month, and the reaction already has sent shock waves through the US business community.

The IASB has indicated that it plans on attacking some of accounting's most disputed issues, including an examination of whether companies should cut profits to account for the cost of awarding stock and stock options to workers - an echo of a 1993 US plan that all but disappeared amid a business outcry.

"That was a hard fight and very acrimonious," says Philip Livingston, president of Financial Executives International, which represents corporate financial officers, financial controllers and treasurers. "People are not willing to do that again."

This issue has been all but taboo among the various accounting standards bodies over the past decade, and the outcome of the examination by the IASB will help define its future influence on the profession.

The IASB's agenda is to focus on areas of perceived weakness in US and European accounting principles. Two of the top issues it will tackle include the area of employee equity and the area of corporate mergers and acquisitions.

But the IASB will need the support of the very governing bodies that it says are too "soft" on these issues in order to affect change. The true test of the strength of the Board will come in its ability to harness support for its global standards while bringing along regulatory bodies such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

In the meantime, it is "going for the jugular," according to the Financial Times.

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