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Tweedie warns on ‘interference’

1 Dec 08

Sir David Tweedie considered resigning over European political interference in the work of the International Accounting Standards Board, which he chairs

Tweedie made the admission last month to the UK Treasury select committee, warning that further meddling in accounting rules risked destroying the long-running project towards developing a single global set of accounting standard.

Tweedie’s comments came as the US Securities and Exchange Commission was expected to release a “roadmap” of how it proposes to shift from US accounting rules to the international system – a move that would effectively cement the use of the IASB’s rules as the single worldwide accounting language.

Tweedie’s stand-off with the European Commission in October resulted in the IASB being forced to change its rules without consultation, relaxing controversial fair value accounting practices, to avoid what it considered the bigger danger of the threatened “carve out” by the Commission. Brussels can remove text from the IASB accounting rules but cannot add in any language, so that its changes are only ever a blunt instrument.

Tweedie said that in this case, they could have allowed an “accounting free-for-all”.

The changes provoked a storm in the accounting and regulatory world, with some observers warning that by caving in to political pressure, led by French opposition to fair value rules, the IASB had irreparably damaged its credibility.

“It’s obvious the French are trying to kill this body [the IASB],” said John McFall, chairman of the UK Treasury select committee.

Tweedie said that the system, which has led banks to write down hundreds of billions in the value of their holdings as markets have plunged, has forced regulators and executives to face the problems head on, rather than hiding from them.

 

A number of banks have criticised the rules for undermining their capital reserves by making them recognise losses while they still hold the assets in question and have no intention of realising those losses.

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