SEC Speaks: We Listen

Feb 6th 2010
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Sunshine may be the best disinfectant, but all the luminaries of the SEC combined - out in force at Day 1 of the Practicing Law Institute's annual SEC Speaks conference yesterday - could not melt away the threat of a Deadly, Epic Snowstorm (CNN), which threatens to drop a total of 20-30 inches of snow in the Washington, DC area, prompting DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, to declare a state of emergency yesterday(authorizing assistance by the National Guard).

In Region Hasn't Seen This Much Snow Since 1922, WTOP's Nathan Hager tells the story behind the current record-holder, the Knickerbocker Storm of 1922, expected to turn over the crown to this weekend's storm: "Twenty-eight inches of snow fell from Jan. 27 to 28 that year [1922], killing 98 people inside the packed Knickerbocker Theater in Adams Morgan, at the time Washington's largest and newest moviehouse. The roof collapsed and the building was destroyed under the weight of all that snow."

"The threat of roof collapse along the lines of the Knickerbocker incident has lessened over the past 88 years," noted WTOP's Hager, adding, "Buildings are built to better standards in 2010."

PLI - perhaps not surprisingly as an organization dedicated to lawyers - took no chances of any untoward snow-related events impacting its speakers or attendees at its conference venue, the International Trade Center; and in consideration of impending air, rail, and local transport issues (see Washington DC Paralyzed as Snow Piles Up), (and other potential storm-related issues, including potential power interruptions) took what appears to be the unprecedented move of cancelling Day 2 of its two-day conference. Similarly, the SEC Alumni Association (ASECA) cancelled its annual dinner slated to take place Friday evening at the International Trade Center. NOTE: Both organizations (PLI and ASECA) intend to reschedule the cancelled events, as noted on their websites.

Nonetheless, neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet could stop Day 1 of PLI's SEC Speaks, and thanks to the wonder of simultaneous webcasting, we were able to catch some of the highlights, particularly with respect to the Accounting Panel, as noted further below.

Highlights of Highlights:
IFRS Roadmap, Auditor Independence, Textron, Venezuela, Fair Value

Within the highlights of the Accounting Panel further below, I would call to your attention in particular Chief Accountant Jim Kroeker's remarks on the status of the proposed IFRS Roadmap - in which he notes the SEC staff is currently developing a 'workplan' to address structural and transitional issues identified in comment letters. He also noted that, as the SEC continues to focus on the objective [presumably the objective of a single set of global accounting standards], it will be with an eye toward "mak[ing] sure it is in the best interests of the capital markets and investors."

I would also point out remarks of Jeff Minton, Chief Counsel in the Office of the Chief Accountant, on some auditor independence issues the SEC is seeing, as well as his reference to the Textron case (which indirectly relates to matters of 'cooperation' discussed under the separate Enforcement panel).

Other hot topics include disclosures relating to currency valuation issues in Venezuela, discussed by Corp Fin Chief Accountant Wayne Carnall, and an interesting question 'backtesting' fair values raised by former Commissioner Cynthia Glassman, a commentator on the accounting panel.
 

Read highlights of the Commissioners' remarks, and detailed highlights from the Accounting Panel at SEC Speaks, here.

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