Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WTF? Is now the time to be EASING accounting standards for financial firms?

Chris Bowers is flabbergasted by this bit of news:

Financial stocks also gained support from news that the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets U.S. accounting rules, proposed to give more leeway on mark-to-market accounting rules. [ID:nN16511198]

Mark-to-market accounting has forced financial institutions to write down billions of dollars in assets.

As far as I understand it, "mark-to-market" means you have to value your assets at what you could actually sell them for on the market. It is contrasted with "mark to model" accounting where you value your assets according to a financial model that you have. (By the way, why does "mark-to-market" have hyphens but "mark to model" not?) It seems to me that we need a good deal more of the former and a good deal less of the latter. I realize that with certain kinds of assets, you need to take into account something other than what price you could get if you had to dump it at a moment's notice. But depending on what "model" you use, there's an enormous potential for bullshit and self-deception to creep in to your asset valuations.

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