FASB Releases 'Plain English' Statement on Fair Value Actions

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On Friday (April 3), the Financial Accounting Stadnards Board released a 'plain English'statement to journalists - supplementing its formal Summary of Board Decisions published on yesterday's FASB actions to finalize guidance on fair value in inactive markets, other-than-temporary-impairment (OTTI), and fair value disclosures.

See also our coverage of the April 2 FASB board meeting and press conference.

Broc Romanek gathered some links to recent coverage of FASB's action in his April 3 blog post in TheCorporateCounsel.net blog, including a link to Jack Ciesielski's AAOWeblog. Ciesielski is a member of FASB's Investors Technical Advisory Committee (ITAC).

My two cents (these are my personal views, I remind you of the disclaimer which appears in the right margin of the this blog): I think some corners of the financial press (print, TV, bloggers and the rest) have unfairly characterized the mark-to-market (fair value) debate into one of good and evil, where some observers view one or the other side of the debate as right or wrong, pushing or being pushed, good or evil.

That kind of coverage may generate 'buzz' but it over-politicizes the reality of what happened in terms of the action taken yesterday by FASB: actions which followed almost a year of public hearings around the world (as noted in FASB's press conference yesterday) including in relation to the financial crisis, as well as SEC's roundtables on mark-to-market, the recommendation that FASB act on fair value and inactive markets and OTTI which was included in SEC's Dec. 30, 2008 report to Congress, and the recommendation of FASB's own Valuation Resource Group at VRG's Feb. 5 meeting. This is not to say whether or not the FSPs are the be-all and end-all of the mark-to-market debate, but just that the actions taken by FASB were moving on a track toward releasing further guidance, but the nature of the push by members of Congress at the March 12 hearing on mark-to-market accounting may have replaced the train with a faster version, an Acela if you will.

I believe it is helpful that FASB put out a 'plain English' explanation of its actions taken, given news reports up to now have taken polar opposite views (and to some extent, probably still will, as people parse and apply the words in the new guidance) as to whether FASB Eases Fair-Value Rules Amid Lawmaker Pressure (Ian Katz, in Bloomberg, April 2) , or whether there will be Little Impact From FASB Fair Value Change: Analyst (Dan Wilchins, Reuters, April 2).

See the UPDATE for more coverage of the fair value/mark-to-market debate. Accounting issues were also addressed in the Leaders Statement released at the conclusion of last week's G-20 meeting, as noted here.

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