Legislative / Regulatory

SEC: A speedbump on the IFRS roadmap?

Speed What's gotten into the water over at the SEC?

The agency gets a new chair, and suddenly not a day goes by without some type of major SEC announcement.

New Chair Mary Schapiro has said she intends to end an policy that requires commissioners to sign off on fines and penalties that enforcement attorneys negotiate with companies that are accused of violating SEC rules. According to the Associated Press, Schapiro says the policy causes delays in the enforcement process and "is among the steps she said she is taking to revitalize the SEC's enforcement efforts and bolster investor protection."

Enforcement Director Linda Chatman Thomsen announced she is leaving the SEC "to pursue opportunities in the private sector," according to the AP.

The agency, which already had Twitter accounts for its news and investor education divisions, continues to embrace new media by launching a mobile Web site where travelers can read the SEC's latest news digests, litigation and administrative actions. Social media seems to be all the rage in the Obama administration. Will it lead to greater transparency, or is it Just More Of The Same 2.0? We'll see.

The SEC is extending the comment period for its proposed "roadmap" for how companies can prepare their financial statements in accordance with international financial reporting standards. The comment period, which had been scheduled to end on Feb. 19, has been extended for 60 days, to April 20, 2009.

That final move seems to be in line with Schapiro's earlier accouncement that she "will not be bound by the existing (IFRS) roadmap." Instead, the SEC apparently will take a reasoned (read: slower) approach to IFRS while making sure all implications are examined.

Some IFRS supporters, including Financial Accounting Standards Board Chair Robert Herz, say that approach by an incoming SEC chair makes sense -- even while they continue to prepare for what they see as an inevitable march toward IFRS.

Others, though, believe pulling back on IFRS for the time being is a smart move, if for no other reason than to ensure that all the bases are covered. In a time when regulators are concerned more about the economy than accounting standards, that's an important consideration. "The change in administration and in political viewpoints is having an impact on the appetite for IFRS," Brian Minnihan, assurance partner with the technology practice at BDO Seidman, told CFO.com's Sarah Johnson.

So we're no longer speeding toward convergence. Instead, we're tapping the brakes and watching out for hazards -- and that might be a good thing, given everything else that's going on these days. Better to do it right than to do it fast.

Do you agree with the SEC's apparent IFRS slowdown? Let us know, then check out these other IFRS resources.


Bill Sheridan