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The chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board’s oversight body has rebuked the US Securities and Exchange Commission over its apparent loss of enthusiasm for global accounting rules.
The IASB writes the International Financial Reporting Standards used by listed companies in the European Union, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Russia and other countries.
It wants the US to move away from its domestic accounting rules, known as US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, by embracing IFRS.
However, SEC staff issued a non-committal paper on the subject on Friday that gave no clue as to when an already-delayed decision on possible IFRS incorporation would be taken by the US markets regulator.
Michel Prada, chairman of the trustees that oversee the IASB, reacted by voicing a feeling of frustration within the standard-setter about the stalled harmonisation project.
Mr Prada, a former head of France’s stock market regulator, said: “While recognising the right of the SEC to determine the method and timing for incorporation of IFRS in the United States, we regret that the staff report is not accompanied by a recommended action plan for the SEC.”
He added: “For the benefit of both US and international stakeholders, the trustees look forward to the SEC resolving the continued uncertainty regarding the US’s commitment to global accounting standards.”
Unifying the US accounting system with IFRS would help regulators and investors compare business across borders, while tightening up some of the weaknesses identified by the financial crisis, supporters of such a move argue.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets US GAAP, had been working with the IASB for a decade to narrow the differences between the two systems in order to facilitate such a move. However, they have not been able to reach a common position on some key issues. The SEC, meanwhile, was supposed to make a decision in IFRS incorporation in 2011.
Its failure to meet that deadline has prompted speculation that it will not make a decision until 2013 at the earliest, reflecting the difficulty of making such a politically sensitive move in an election year, amid fragile economic conditions.