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Posts Tagged ‘Shyam Sunder’

Shyam Sunder is James L. Frank Professor of Accounting, Economics, and Finance at Yale School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut.  He has long opposed a single set of global accounting standards.  So to has Stella Fearnley, professor of accounting at Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.

Their recent op-ed piece, “Global Accounting Rules — An Unfeasible Aim,” appeared in the June 3, 2012 edition of the Financial Times.  I have asked for, and been granted, permission to republish it here.


Global Accounting Rules
– An Unfeasible Aim

By Stella Fearnley and Shyam Sunder

The introduction of the euro and the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in the EU and other countries were promoted by aspirational rhetoric about gains from uniformity. Applying uniform process or rule in diverse societies does not yield uniform outcomes. Effective oversight and control of the process and rule-making can become impossible and unbalanced with so many players involved. Failure to recognise and manage the risks associated with uniformity has driven the European Monetary Union to a critical precipice. Similar risks apply to the efforts of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), the accountancy profession and some international regulators to bring about adoption of IFRS for global use.

The IASB and US Financial Accounting Standards Board have committed significant resources since 2002 trying to agree on common accounting standards. Despite their efforts, IFRS have not been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission for US adoption. The SEC may never risk the political backlash from ceding control of its accounting to a non-US body. We can learn from the euro debacle and assess not only if the vision of one set of global accounting standards is achievable but also if it is desirable.

Accounting standards interact with law, commercial codes, and social norms in different countries in many ways. The IASB has pushed its agenda ahead taking no responsibility for recurrent unintended consequences. The disaster of some banks depleting their capital by paying bonuses and dividends out of false profits, generated under IFRS’s defective mark-to-market and loan-loss provision standards, is a good example.

Abandonment of judgmental true-and-fair standards in favour of written rules make accounting vulnerable to mis-statements through complexity beyond the grasp of users and directors.

China, Japan, and India have yet to be persuaded to adopt IFRS and watch from the sidelines. Within Europe, some countries view IFRS as an Anglo-American invention, and remain sceptical of its suitability for their own needs.

Complexity and interactivity of social systems and markets make it all but impossible for a group of experts to divine the “best” accounting solution that will serve divergent economies. Even if it were feasible, it can only be developed through bottom-up evolution of accounting and not through top-down imposition of a single method selected by a board of “experts” with limited accountability.

The IASB’s persistent denial that the procyclical and complex accounting model played a part in the banking crisis by inflating profits undermines trust in its competence and intent.

The euro debacle points to prudent wariness of Icarus-like overreaching ambition that is not underpinned in theory or experience. Common standards, such as common currency, may appear a good idea, particularly for international companies, regulators and audit firms. But what did we get? A Board that issues standards that can induce false profits in reports and drown users in complexity; that has not accepted responsibility for the dysfunctional consequences of its standards; and has no effective mechanisms for timely correction of defects.

Although the big players get economies of scale from applying IFRS across their international activities, shareholders and other stakeholders, particularly in the banking sector, have not been well served by the outcomes of IFRS standards.

We therefore urge the SEC not to proceed with IFRS in the US. Directors and auditors in the EU and other countries applying IFRS could lead by insisting on a true-and-fair override to cut complexity in IFRS based accounts.

We suggest the G20 drop its support for global accounting standards. Instead, they could recommend that accounting reports reflect the economic substance of businesses based on professional judgments and sound, prudent principles, and recognise that Anglo-American based accounting standards are not necessarily appropriate for the whole world.


Debit and credit – – David Albrecht


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One of the courses I teach is Intermediate Accounting 2.  This semester’s paper assignment is to take a position on whether the U.S. should adopt IFRS (or some form of global accounting standards) or retain its unique GAAP.   To improve the quality of papers I receive, I instituted a system of peer review, requiring each paper to go though one round of double non-blind review.  The end result was 28 pretty good papers (21 for GAAP, 7 for IFRS or global accounting standards).  I’ll be posting the three best.  This paper is by Peter Zender, a junior in accounting.

GAAP VS IFRS: Protecting Investors

by Peter Zender

It is seventy-one degrees in Scottsdale, Arizona. Perfect weather for a round of eighteen holes (golf cart used of course), an early dinner (early bird special!), and then finish off the day with a relaxing evening sitting on the patio, cold beer in hand, feet up (we’ll skip the shuffle board to avoid stereotypes). Or, I could wake up in my kid’s basement, head for an eight hour shift at the local Wal-Mart, come home to an evening of the hectic rushing most American families face, all while enjoying the freezing cold temperatures of Minnesota. Which one do I want for my retirement? Let me think…I’m going to go with Option A. Currently standing between myself and the desired dream retirement is roughly fifty years of work to make some hard earned money and then using my hard earned cash to fund thoughtful, solid investment growth. And the key to making the right investments is correct and truthful business information, including financial statements. The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) currently provides investors with a reasonably acceptable amount of faith to make their investments and my belief is that a switch to International Financial Reporting Standards would only hamper that faith.

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A panel discussion titled, ” Concerns Over U.S. Adoption of IFRS” will take place on Monday, Monday August 2, 2010 – 10:15 am-11:45 am at the annual meeting in San Francisco for the American Accounting Association (AAA).  The AAA is the primary professional organization for American accounting professors.

The panel discussion will feature internationally renowned accounting experts who have expressed concerns over some aspects of U.S. adoption of IFRS.  Tentatively scheduled participants are Ray Ball (University of Chicago), Shyam Sunder (Yale University), Charles Niemeier (PCAOB), Robert Jensen (Trinity University, retired), David Albrecht (Concordia College).  The session is moderated by David Albrecht (Concordia College).

The American Accounting Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting will be held in the Hilton San Francisco Union Square and the Parc 55 San Francisco in San Francisco, California, July 31 – August 4, 2010.  Registration for the annual meeting is required to attend this panel discussion.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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This is part one of an eight part series in which I review the seven IFRS critics (Sunder, Niemeier, Ball, Ketz, Selling, Jensen & Albrecht) of whom I am aware.  The series continues over the next two weeks on regular posting dates, MWF.

Please be aware that you will need more time than usual to read this on Shyam Sunder, a blog essay.  I’m reviewing three pieces of work by Shyam Sunder.  Instead of a normal blog post of 500-800 words, this checks in at 3,400.  Be assured that the read is very much worth it.

Shyam Sunder

Shyam Sunder, Yale professor

Shyam Sunder, Ph.D., is truly a heavy hitter of an accounting theorist.  He is a tenured, full professor at Yale and is one of the very biggest names in accounting academe.  I’ve read of his work for years (his resume lists six books and over 150 refereed articles in the most highly regarded journals), and I stand in awe of his ability to get so much more out of 24 hours per day and 30 days per month than do I.   He is well respected by other professors, having served as president of the American Accounting Association (national group of accounting professors).  His brief  bio is very revealing.  It is an understatement to say that he shines much, much, much brighter on the brilliancy scale than I.

In reviewing his stance on IFRS, I will be referring to these three works (listed chronologically):

Dr. Sunder does not support the SEC decision to move the U.S to IFRS.  His points are sophisticated and are mostly outside the norm of those typically found on Internet web sites and/or newspapers.  However, I have tried to explain his work in such a way that a typical undergraduate student can understand.  I don’t think there is any reason now to be unaware of his work.

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