NEW YORK/LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official said on Monday he may have recommendations “in the near future” on the use by U.S. corporations of global accounting standards, suggesting a formal decision may be near after a long impasse.
SEC Chief Accountant James Schnurr said in a speech that he does not have a predetermined view on an approach to the long-standing issue of harmonizing corporate accounting worldwide. He noted that full adoption of global accounting standards generally does not have support in the United States.
Washington has faced repeated calls from the Group of 20 leading industrialized countries to align its accounting with international financial reporting standards, or IFRS, used by more than 100 countries across the world.
The SEC for over a decade has grappled with whether and how to move the United States closer to IFRS, but has put off a final decision for years. The SEC requires U.S. companies to use generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP.
“Any continued uncertainty around IFRS results in uneasiness for investors,” Schnurr said at an American Institute of Certified Public Accountants conference in Washington, D.C.
He said he hopes to begin talks with SEC commissioners “in the coming months” about alternatives for aligning standards. Any change would be subject to the notice and comment process for a rule-making proposal, he said.
Harmonization supporters have said it would make it easier for investors to compare companies across the globe.
The outlook for full adoption of IFRS in the United States dimmed in 2012 when the SEC staff issued a report describing numerous obstacles. “We are looking for feedback regarding other alternatives,” Schnurr said.
One option would be to allow companies to report voluntarily in GAAP and IFRS, he said. The SEC now restricts “non-GAAP financial measures,” including IFRS, in financial statements.
An option for voluntary use of IFRS would be “very welcome,” David Wright, secretary general of the International Organization of Securities Commissions, a watchdog group, told Reuters on the sidelines of an accounting conference in London.
However, Wright expressed disappointment that a full alignment of accounting rules does not look likely. He said it was worrying that there will not be a common accounting standard on how banks value loans on their books, a core demand from the G20 group of countries in the wake of the 2007-09 financial crisis. (Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Dan Grebler)