“So… What’s the FASB up to now”?: From the Chairman’s Desk, January 2016

In January 2016 Mr. Russell G. Golden, FASB Chairman, addressed more than 6,000 members of the SEC Professionals Group. This group represented an informal community of professionals who actively prepare and file financial reports with the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Golden was asked what he considered the greatest challenge facing the FASB and what he considered the FASB’s greatest opportunity.  

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He gave the same answer to both questions.

“Our greatest challenge-and our greatest opportunity- is in setting the FASB’s future agenda”.

Mr. Golden went further,

“As I’ve said in the past, a big part of successful standard setting is identifying the right problems. That requires determining if the problem can, in fact, be addressed with a standard setting solution. Before that process gets underway, an even more important question we must ask ourselves is: do our stakeholders think the problem should be a priority for the Board”?

With some of the FASB’s major projects concluding, their focus is on answering that question.

In the Spring of 2015, the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council (FASAC) conducted a survey of its members—as well as members of other advisory groups, the Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) and the Private Company Council (PCC)—to find out what additional issues the FASB should tackle in 2016 and beyond.

The advisory group members were asked the following questions:

  • What are the most needed financial reporting improvements and why?
  • Related to that, what is the problem and what are feasible alternatives?
  • When is the solution needed, and for whom?

From the more than 80 responses received, it was learned that, overall, advisory group members ranked the following five projects as top priorities for the Board:

  • Financial performance reporting
  • Improving cash flow classification
  • Pensions and other post-retirement benefits
  • Liabilities and equity
  • Intangible assets (especially important to the technology industry).

It’s important to note that not all stakeholder groups agreed on all priorities.

For example, segment reporting was the top priority for investors, but ranked last by preparers.

ITEM Preparer User Practitioner Other
Financial Performance Reporting X X X X
Improving Cash Flow Classification X X X X
Pensions and Other Post Retirement Benefits X X X X
Liabilities with Characteristics of Equity X   X  
Intangible Assets   X   X
Other Comprehensive Income X      
Consolidations     X  
Segment Reporting   X    
Inventory and Cost of Sales       X

 

The FASB plans to share the full survey results in a public meeting during the first quarter of 2016. Please note. The findings are a starting point and not the final word.

Further, during the first half of 2016, the FASB expects to issue a Discussion Paper on what they learned from the survey. The Discussion Paper will more fully describe the top areas of concern identified in the survey results, further articulate the identified problems, and present possible solutions.

More importantly, it will provide us, the professional stakeholders, an opportunity to tell the FASB whether we agree or disagree on the areas of improvement they have identified—and why.

The Discussion Paper also will ask you what you think are other potential issues we should consider, as well as how you would prioritize them.

The FASB wants to know what important “big-ticket” items you think they should—and shouldn’t—consider in the future.

In concluding, Mr. Golden stated,

“To develop the right solutions, we must first identify the right problems. And that means listening, carefully, to your experiences, input, and concerns.

Your feedback also will help us better understand what concerns dovetail with those of our international counterparts and whether there’s an opportunity to work toward converged solutions.

Our agenda review coincides with a similar review underway by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). We did this because we may discover our respective stakeholders share common concerns, allowing us to identify opportunities to work together on major issues of mutual importance.

As always, your input during this process will help ensure the Board directs its time and resources to solving the accounting problems that are most important to you. I thank you in advance for continuing to share your views on our agenda priorities”.

Finally, for the professionals, this will be a golden opportunity (seriously, no pun intended) to express the concerns that we all have. Please do provide the feedback that is needed to further assist and promote our profession into the future.

One of my favorite borrowed expressions has become,

To predict the future – create it

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