Peeling away financial reporting issues one layer at a time

Camfferman and Zeff on the IASB

This is my third post for today.

About 20 years ago (it’s been that long already!), I had a fairly regular gig traveling to Europe and Dubai to make presentations about SEC disclosure requirements that applied to foreign private issuers, or to lead a whirlwind tour of the aspects of U.S. GAAP that were most different from practices elsewhere.

As International Accounting Standards began to take hold, I was approached to make presentations on IAS (later, IFRS).  It was a daunting task to learn about International Accounting Standards, but it was also wonderful actually getting paid to learn.  But, as others became more savvy about IAS, I was soon resented for being an American who presumed to know more about local accounting standards than the audience.

My knowledge of IAS continued to pay dividends as the SEC, backed by the drumbeat of the Big Four, took up the cause of IFRS adoption in the U.S.  And it must also be mentioned that these experiences have informed my writings about IFRS topics in this blog.

Today, I try to focus on U.S. GAAP — along with SEC and PCAOB — developments, but I also have had a few IFRS-based clients in the U.S. that are subsidiaries of European public companies.  I have also been teaching a course on Accounting Theory for the last couple of years at SMU.  For that, comparisons of IFRS with U.S. GAAP is a gift that keeps on giving: it’s a provocative way to gets students thinking about the politics of standard setting in addition to the kinds of financial information produced by different rules.

AimingForGlobalAccountingStandardsAll of the forgoing is to explain why I became interested in Kees Camfferman’s and Stephen Zeff’s a new bookAiming for Global Accounting Standards: The International Accounting Standards Board, 2001–2011.  Here’s a few things you should know about it:

  • It is a follow-on to their book on the history of the International Accounting Standards Committee, the predecessor of the IASB.  Indeed, one of the more valuable aspects of the book for me is the encapsulation of that history in one chapter.
  • Other key topics include the turmoil surrounding the accounting for financial instruments, the ups and downs of the IASB’s relationship with the EU, how IFRS has caught on (and had problems) elsewhere, and of course, the gory details of the efforts to converge U.S. with IFRS.
  • While the writing style is (without in any way slighting the contribution of Kees Camfferman) vintage Steve Zeff for its lucidity and readability.  Yet, the length of the book and the detail verge on the encyclopedic.  I am about a third of the way through, but I don’t see myself finishing it anytime soon.  Instead, I see myself reading selectively to gain deep background on selected topics for each time in the future that I will engage with IFRS.

Though pricey, I commend this book to anyone who has an interest in teaching IFRS.  But, if you can’t afford it for your personal bookshelf, make sure your school’s library has a copy.

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