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LAPFF trades blows with EU accounting adviser in IFRS 9 row

The war of words between the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) and the European Union’s advisory body on accounting matters, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG), shows no sign of letting up.

In the latest development in the battle over the endorsement of the International Accounting Standards Board’s new financial instruments accounting literature, the LAPFF and the EFRAG have written to the EU’s internal market commissioner, Jonathan Hill, to clarify their position on IFRS 9.

The LAPFF argued that the EFRAG process “is defective because it has used the wrong endorsement criteria”.

The EFRAG, meanwhile, insisted its reading of the law was correct.

The LAPFF first contacted the European Commission about the issue on 23 September.

The local authority pension funds body warned that the EU Commission could in future face legal action were IFRS 9 to be endorsed.

In that letter, the LAPFF also warned that, were the Commission to endorse IFRS 9, it could face a legal challenge through the courts.

Despite the opposition to IFRS 9 from the LAPFF and other long-term investor interests in the UK, not all shareholder interest groups are opposed to IFRS 9.

Eumedion, a corporate-governance lobbying forum, has lobbied both the European Commission and the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee in support of adoption.

In a 30 November letter, obtained by IPE, Eumedion argued that any delay in clearing IFRS 9 “would increase the risk” that banks and insurance companies would be unable to convince investors to stump up fresh capital during any subsequent crisis.

The LAPFF’s position on IFRS 9 endorsement is that Article 3(2) of the IAS Regulation 2002 requires IFRSs to comply with Article 4(3) of the Accounting Directive (2013/34/EU).

Within Article 4(3), the LAPFF points to the requirement for accounts to “give a true and fair view of the undertaking’s assets, liabilities, financial position and profit or loss”.

The true and fair view notion is at the heart of the argument the LAPFF and other investors have about IFRS accounts.

They claim IFRS is defective and fails to meet this requirement.

This shortcoming, they argue, caused what appeared to be well-capitalised banks with apparently healthy balance sheets to implode during the financial crisis.

These investor groups point to current IFRS financial-instruments literature, together with the use of mark-to-model fair values, as one reason why IFRS fails to meet the true and fair criteria.

They also complain about the lack of accounting prudence in the IASB’s conceptual framework.

The IASB has responded to these and other criticisms with a project to replace its current financial-instruments standard with IFRS 9, Financial Instruments.

It has also unveiled plans to reintroduce the concept of prudence to its conceptual framework.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, the EFRAG hit back at the charge its IFRS 9 endorsement advice was legally flawed in a further letter to the Commission.

In that letter, the EFRAG agreed with the LAPFF that Article 4(3) of the Accounting Directive refers to specific numbers in the accounts.

However, the EFRAG went on to argue that this requirement must be read alongside Recital 9 of the IAS Regulation.

In its latest response to this claim, the EFRAG said the EU should consider the true and fair view requirement “in the light of the said Council Directives without implying a strict conformity with each and every provision of this Directive”.

The EFRAG added it had “concluded that IFRS 9 is not contrary to the true and fair principle”.

An LAPFF spokesperson told IPE: “Recital 9 [of the IAS Regulation] is not undermining the core purpose of accounts per the Accounting Directive set out in Recital 3, which is member and creditor protection.

“Quite the opposite, in fact. Recital 9 is allowing for the dropping of those things that are not essential in the light of that core purpose.”

The statement concluded: “The EFRAG’s reading is back to front and wholly arbitrary because it drops the essential purpose and falls back onto extraneous matters instead. The EFRAG has no power to change the very purpose of legislation.”

The row over prudence in accounting, the true and fair view requirement and, latterly, IFRS 9 has dominated the landscape between audit watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and some investor parties.

The increasingly bitter war of words between the FRC and these investors has seen both sides take specialist legal advice on the issues of prudence and the true and fair view in a bid to gain the initiative.

Alongside its analysis of the legal test for adopting a new IFRS, the EFRAG said insurance industry concerns were insufficient reason to delay the adoption of IFRS 9.

The IASB’s work on insurance liability accounting has yet to come to an end. In February 2014, the board voted to fix IFRS 9’s effective date at 1 January 2018.

This move means insurers must apply the new insurance standard several years after they have applied IFRS 9 – even though the two standards are supposed to complement each other.

The EFRAG said in its 1 December letter to the Commission that the benefits of applying IFRS 9 from 2018 outweighed any hardship the insurance sector might face.

The advisers wrote: “[We] concluded that the efforts necessary to support financial statements presenting a true and fair view would not, in all circumstances, lead to an acceptable cost-benefit trade-off.”

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