Pressure mounts on IFRS foundation, international standards
Members of the European Parliament are set to vote on a highly critical review of the performance of the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS).
The Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) approved a draft of the report at a sitting on 27 April.
The motion will now go forward to a plenary sitting of the Parliament for a final vote.
Speaking after the 27 April vote, Green Party MEP and leading IFRS critic Sven Giegold said: “The message of the MEPs is clear: We are not just letting others decide on new standards. The European Parliament needs to be included when new standards are negotiated.
“Since the EU funds 14% of IASB’s budget and 60% of EFRAG, both organisations have to follow European standards of democratic legitimacy, transparency, accountability and integrity.”
International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) chairman Hans Hoogervorst has in the past warned that the Parliament was “getting out of hand”.
Long-term investors that have argued that IFRS accounts fail to deliver a true and fair view of a business’s financial affairs have welcomed the development.
Own-initiative reports are a well-established working tool and political instrument of the European Parliament.
They can pave the way for new legislative proposals. They can also provide a platform for MEPs to voice opinions on topics of interest, as well as respond to European Commission communications.
The strongly worded resolution argues that the IFRS accounting model is incompatible with European law.
It also argues that the IASB’s new financial instruments accounting standard, IFRS 9, fails to promote financial stability.
Finally, the MEPs have demanded a greater role for the Parliament in the standard-setting process.
Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) chairman Cllr Keiran Quinn told IPE: “The very informative ECON report highlights the significant problems with the IFRS system and the governance of the accounting standard setters.
“We expect to see structural changes following the way standards are set and endorsed.”
The LAPFF has consistently asserted the FRC has been getting the law wrong, not even writing the words of the statute down properly.
The FRC, IASB and EFRAG have not upheld the public interest but succumbed to “vested interest groups”.
In particular, the ECON report attacks the “decision-useful model of accounting” as being inconsistent with the capital adequacy function of accounting as described in ECJ case law and the Accounting Directive.
The ECON committee has also confirmed the long-standing LAPFF position that “the conceptual basis of accounting under the IFRS framework does not encompass the purpose of accounts in EU law, for which a true and fair view of the specific figures is the standard”.
The LAPFF has recently sought advice from leading commercial barrister George Bompass QC.
He concluded that IFRS, which do not refer specifically to “what is or is not available for distribution by reference to amounts stated in them”, cannot give a true and fair view of a company’s “assets and liabilities, financial position and profits or losses”.
The UK Financial Reporting Council has dismissed this position and reiterated its firm view the true and fair view requirement applies to the accounts as a whole rather than to individual components.
In a further headache for the pro-IFRS European Commission and the IFRS Foundation, the ECON motion also questions the IASB’s decision to require banks to recognise just 12-months’ worth of expected losses on their loan book in the new IFRS 9 standard.
The motion expressly refers to “the lack of conceptual basis regarding the 12-month loss provisioning approach and the unsatisfactory provisions pertaining to long-term investment”.
IPE reported in March that the chairman of the European Systemic Risk Board, Mario Draghi, conceded his board did not yet understand the financial-stability impact of IFRS 9.
If the EU endorses the standard, it would apply to accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2018.
The new standard would be used extensively by systemically vital banks and insurance companies as the basis for their financial-asset accounting.
Finally, MEPs have also reiterated the Parliament’s long-standing demand for involvement “at an early stage when developing financial reporting standards in general and in the endorsement process in particular”.
The call is a potential headache for the IFRS Foundation, which in recent years has struggled to convince the US Securities & Exchange Commission that it can fend off political pressure from Europe.
In a final 2013 report on IFRS adoption, SEC staff argued: “Through various channels, the Staff received feedback from commenters that have expressed concerns the IASB’s objectivity could be undermined via outside political influence.”
The SEC staff also cited the concerns of the US CFA Institute, which pointed to the need to “recognis[e] that global politics can diminish high-quality standards, and address how political pressures can be counterbalanced.”