The IASB chairman Hans Hoogervorst has used a speech to the Dutch Instituut voor Pensioeneducatie to defend the board’s pensions accounting rulebook, International Accounting Standard 19, Employee Benefits (IAS 19).
His comments come as the standard comes under increasing criticism over its reliance on a AA-corporate bond yield for discounting purposes.
Hoogervorst told his audience the challenges facing Dutch pension schemes could not be attributed solely to the current low-interest-rate environment.
“[P]ension funds would have suffered from the financial crisis under any scenario,” he said.
He added that the board “rejects calls to fundamentally change pension accounting to eliminate or reduce pension deficits.”
Hoogervorst did, however, concede that the IAS 19 measurement model “does not cater for recent developments in pension scheme design” such as Dutch hybrid plans.
He added that the board was now looking “at whether improvements can be made” to the standard.
The IASB recently confirmed it would add a limited-scope feasibility study into post-employment benefits that rely on an asset return.
The project is in the board’s research pipeline and unlikely to progress to an active project.
In other news, the chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has turned up the heat on the UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC).
In the letter, the Labour Party peer has demanded answers from the watchdog on the potential conflict between the IFRS and UK company law and also on the issue of prudence in accounting.
Lord Hollick has invited the FRC to clarify whether the opinion obtained by the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) alters the FRC’s finding that the LAPFF position is “misconceived”.
The LAPFF has argued that accounts prepared under IFRS enable companies to pay out fantasy dividends from illusory distributable reserves to the detriment of long-term investors.
The FRC has publicly stated in comments reported in The Times newspaper that the LAPFF position and that of its legal adviser George Bompas QC is “wrong”.
Documents obtained under UK freedom of information legislation and seen by IPE reveal, however, that civil servants not only restrained the FRC from claiming that the LAPFF was wrong but also expressed dismay at The Times report.
Also on the 29 November letter to the FRC, Lord Hollick asks the audit watchdog whether it is happy with the steps the IASB has taken to reintroduce the concept of prudence into the IFRS Conceptual Framework or whether a more conservative definition is needed.
IASB staff told the board at a 15 November meeting they expect the new Conceptual Framework to have little impact on IFRS preparers.
They said this was because “few preparers develop accounting policies by reference to the framework”.
Meanwhile, the US is unlikely to adopt IFRS for use by domestic companies in the “foreseeable future”, the SEC’s top accountant has revealed.
The watchdog’s chief accountant said in a 5 December speech to the American Institute of CPAs conference: “I believe that, for at least the foreseeable future, the FASB’s independent standard-setting process and US GAAP will continue to best serve the needs of investors and other users who rely on financial reporting by US issuers.”
Addressing the same conference, FASB chairman Russell Golden pledged further co-operation with the IASB.
He said the US board would “continue to collaborate and cooperate with the IASB and national standards setters with an eye toward agreeing on and adopting standards that promote common outcomes”.
The IASB and FASB have recently reached non-converged outcomes, however, on high-profile convergence projects covering lease accounting and financial instruments.
In other news, the UK FRC has warned preparers it has so-called alternative performance measures in its sights.
The use of APMs or non-GAAP measures has emerged as a hot-button topic in recent months.
On 7 June, the International Organisation of Securities Commissioners (IOSCO) issued a statement detailing 12 indicators for preparers to follow when publicising non-GAAP measures.
The IASB is mulling whether it will add a project on possible standardisation of non-GAAP measures to its work plan. A decision is expected from the board later this month.
Lastly, the Trustees of the IFRS Foundation have announced a number of tweaks to the Foundation’s constitution.
The move follows a review of the Trustees’ structure and effectiveness in 2015.
Under the new arrangements, the number of IASB members will fall from 16 to 14.
The Foundation has also changed the criteria governing both board member and trustee professional backgrounds and their geographic distribution.
In addition, nine IASB members must approve the publication of a proposed or final IFRS. This requirement falls to eight if there are 13 or fewer board members.