The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is a private, non-profit organization standard setting body whose primary purpose is to establish and improve generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) within the United States in the public's interest. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) designated the FASB as the organization responsible for setting accounting standards for public companies in the U.S. The FASB replaced the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' (AICPA) Accounting Principles Board (APB) on July 1, 1973.
In 2009 Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and others claimed that the FASB succumbed to "political pressure" and lobbyists and tweaked mark-to-market accounting to accommodate "banks with toxic assets on their books."
Since 2009 the FASB added the disclosure framework project to its conceptual framework in order to make financial statement disclosures "more effective and coordinated and less redundant." As part of this process, in September 2015 the FASB issued a controversial proposal regarding "the use of materiality by reporting entities" and an amendment of the definition of the legal concept materiality. Materiality is "a mainstay of corporate financial disclosure that determines what a company must tell investors about its operations and results." Harvard professor, Karthik Ramanna and lawyer, Allen Dreschel claim FASB's proposed revised definition of materiality "could put the economy at greater risk of another huge accounting fraud, like Enron or Lehman Brothers" by weakening disclosure which is "the cornerstone of fair and efficient markets." For example, if the new proposal is enacted—a pharmaceutical company would be allowed to not disclose to its investors that its new drug in the pipeline performed poorly in drug trials because there is a "substantial likelihood" that the information could sway investment decisions. Some Fortune 500 companies and the United States Chamber of Commerce argue that investors and companies suffer from "disclosure overload."
The FASB's mission is "to establish and improve standards of financial accounting and reporting that foster financial reporting by nongovernmental entities that provides decision-useful information to investors and other users of financial reports."
The FASB accomplishes its mission "through a comprehensive and independent process that encourages broad participation, objectively considers all stakeholder views, and is subject to oversight by the Financial Accounting Foundation's Board of Trustees."
The FASB is not a governmental body. The SEC has legal authority to establish financial accounting and reporting standards for publicly held companies under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Throughout its history, however, Commission policy has been to rely on the private sector for this function to the extent that the private sector demonstrates ability to fulfill the responsibility in the public interest.
The FASB is part of a structure that is independent of all other business and professional organizations. Before the present structure was created, financial accounting and reporting standards were established first by the Committee on Accounting Procedure (1936–1959) of the American Institute of Accountants and then by the Accounting Principles Board (1959–73), a part of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Pronouncements of those predecessor bodies remain in force unless amended or superseded by the FASB. The FASB's structure is very different from its predecessors in many ways. The board consists of seven full-time members. These members are required to sever all ties to previous firms and institutions that they may have served prior to joining the FASB. This is to ensure the impartiality and independence of the FASB. All members are selected by the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF). They are appointed for a five-year term and are eligible for one additional five-year term. The current members are (with current term end dates indicated):Russell G. Golden, Chairman (current term as chairman expires in 2017; eligible for a 3-year extension beyond 2017)
James L. Kroeker, Vice Chairman (1st term expires in 2018)
Daryl E. Buck (retiring in 2016)
Thomas J. Linsmeier (2nd term expires June 30, 2016; Christine Ann Botosan was named as his replacement as of July 1, 2016)
R. Harold Schroeder (2nd term expires in 2020)
Marc A. Siegel (2nd term expires in 2018)
Lawrence W. Smith (2nd term expires in 2017)
In addition to the full-time members, there are approximately 68 staff members. These staff are, "professionals drawn from public accounting, industry, academe, and government, plus support personnel."
The FASB is subject to oversight by the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF), which selects the members of the FASB and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board and funds both organizations. The Board of Trustees of the FAF, in turn, is selected in part by a group of organizations including:American Accounting Association
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Financial Executives International
Government Finance Officers Association
Institute of Management Accountants
National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers
Securities Industry Association
In 1973 the FASB began their Conceptual Framework project to develop a sound theoretical basis for the development of accounting standards in the United States.
In 1984, the FASB formed the Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF). This group was formed in order to provide timely responses to financial issues as they emerged. This group includes 15 people from both the private and public sectors coupled with representatives from the FASB and an SEC observer. As issues emerge, the task force considers them and tries to reach a consensus on what course of action to take. If that consensus can be reached, they issue an EITF Issue and FASB doesn't get involved. An EITF Issue is considered just as valid as a FASB pronouncement and is included in the GAAP.
On September 18, 2002 in Norwalk, Connecticut the FASB met with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and together issued a Memorandum of Understanding on a convergence project. regarding International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) outlining plans to converge IFRS and US GAAP into in the "development of the highest quality compatible accounting standards that could be used for both domestic and cross-border financial reporting." As part of the project, FASB began to move away from the principle of historical cost to fair value.
In 2006 the FASB—the United States "accounting standard setter"—implemented SFAS 157 which established new standards for disclosure regarding fair value measurements in financial statements. Critics argued that it contributed to the crisis.
According to a Wall Street Journal 2008 article the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) and the FASB "eased the mark to market accounting rule" in the United States to allow "executives to use their own financial models if no market exists" under pressure from banks who were complaining that the "strict application of mark-to-market rules has forced them to write down mortgage-related securities."
In August 2008 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published a "proposed “Roadmap” for the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for U.S. companies, to replace U.S. GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) on a timetable that established several milestones to be achieved by 2011 as the basis for moving ahead toward a transition to IFRS beginning in 2014."
In 2009 the international Financial Crisis Advisory Group that investigated the implications of the financial crisis of 2007–2010 on standards setting, tabled their report in which they found that the FASB and SEC had been pressured by politicians and banks to change accounting standards to protect banks from the impact of their toxic mortgages.
In July 2009 the FASB announced that their Accounting Standards Codification was the authoritative accounting standards in the United States.
In May 2015 the SEC acknowledged that "investors, auditors, regulators and standard-setters" in the United States did not support mandating International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS) for all U.S. public companies. There was "little support for the SEC to provide an option allowing U.S. companies to prepare their financial statements under IFRS." However, there was support for a single set of globally accepted accounting standards. The IFRS—a nonprofit accounting organization—develops and promotes the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) through the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which it oversees. For ten years the FASB and IASB collaborated on a "common objective not only to eliminate differences between IFRS and U.S. GAAP wherever possible, “but also to achieve convergence in accounting standards that stood the test of time."
By 2015 FASB and International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) were again planning meetings after a hiatus of several years. The United States has little interest in adopting the IFRS standards as was the original plan in 2002. The US FASB already uses GAAP as a rate regulation standard.
By 2016 there was concern that FASB's proposed amendments to the definition of materiality and its use by reporting entities would put the economy at risk of fraud on the scale of Enron's. For example, if the new proposal is enacted—a pharmaceutical company would be allowed to not disclose to its investors that its new drug in the pipeline performed poorly in drug trials because there is a "substantial likelihood" that the information could sway investment decisions. Some Fortune 500 companies and the United States Chamber of Commerce argue that investors and companies suffer from "disclosure overload."
The FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board created the Financial Crisis Advisory Group in 2008—an international group of standard-setting bodies—that coordinated responses "on the future of global standards in light of" the financial crisis of 2007–2010. The FCAG was composed of 15–20 senior leaders in finance and chaired by Harvey Goldschmid and Hans Hoogervorst with a mandate to investigate financial reporting issues uncovered by the global financial crisis. FCAG members included Stephen Haddrill and Michel Prada—a member of the International Centre for Financial Regulation (ICFR) and co-chair of the Council on Global Financial Regulation was a member of the Financial Crisis Advisory Group. Haddrill who was the only UK representative on the FCAG, is CEO of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in the United Kingdom and has a close interest in accounting standards. Just prior to the FCAG's report to the G20 in April 2009 meeting, and in reference to the political pressure placed on standards setters "to make changes to fair value accounting rules over suggestions that it exacerbated the financial crisis" Haddrill cautioned,
"Who do we want to set accounting standards? Not politicians, that’s clear. But neither do we want experts vacuum-packed in a world of their own."
On July 1, 2009, the FASB announced the launch of its Accounting Standards Codification, declaring it to be "the single source of authoritative nongovernmental U.S. generally accepted accounting principles." The Codification organizes the many pronouncements that constitute U.S. GAAP into a consistent, searchable format. The Codification is not to be confused with the FASB's 1973 Conceptual Framework project.
FASB and the International Accounting Standard Board are working closely together to develop a common Conceptual Framework. The goal is develop standards that are objectives-based, internally consistent, and internationally converged. Currently Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8 “Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting” is being used in the United States. The Conceptual Framework include: measurement attributes used to measure and report economic transactions, events, and arrangements in financial statements; and accounting principles and assumptions that guide recognition, derecognition, and disclosure, as well as the classification and presentation of information in financial statements.
Fundamental qualitative characteristics, relevance and faithful representation allow for decision usefulness. Information that is capable of making a difference in decisions made by financial statement users is relevant. The three components of relevance are:Predictive Value – information that should help users form expectations about the value
Confirmatory Value – information that provides feedback to confirm or correct prior predictions and expectations
Materiality – refers to the nature and magnitude of an omission or misstatement of accounting information that would influence the judgment of a reasonable person relying on that information
Faithful representation is when the words and numbers accurately predict the economic substance of what they purport to represent. The three components of faithful representation are:Complete representation – provides a user with full disclosure of all information necessary to understand the information being reported, with all necessary facts, descriptions, and explanations
Neutral representation – not biased, slanted, emphasized or otherwise manipulated to achieve a pre-determined result or to influence users’ behavior in a particular direction
Free from error – the information is measured and described as accurately as possible, using a process that reflects the best available inputs
In 2002 FASB began to work with convergence project with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the independent, accounting standard-setting body of the IFRS Foundation on a convergence project. They met on September 18, 2002, in Norwalk, Connecticut to sign a MoU which "committed the boards to the development of high quality compatible accounting standards with a common solution." This document outlined plans to converge IFRS and US GAAP into one set of high quality and compatible standards.
By 2015 FASB and IASB were planning meetings to discuss "business combinations, the disclosure framework, insurance contracts and the conceptual framework."
In June 2009, FASB was criticized by an advisory panel of investors after making changes on mark-to-market accounting in response to political pressure. Lobbyists had obtained its permission for banks to apply a special accounting treatment for toxic assets.
In order to establish accounting principles, the FASB issues pronouncements publicly, each addressing general or specific accounting issues. These pronouncements are:Statements of Financial Accounting Standards
Statements of Financial Accounting Concepts
FASB Technical Bulletins