Tweedie calls on critics to help reform hated standard

Big hit: oil companies have been adversely affected

Finance directors have moaned about it, auditors have spent hour upon hour
trying to figure it out and even former French president Jacques Chirac

Now, three years after it came into force, the critics of financial
instruments standard IAS 39 will have their chance to say how it should be

The standard has had a huge impact on financial companies and oil and gas
groups, who have experienced huge swings in reported profits due to rules on
hedging prices.

The IASB has released a discussion paper, entitled Reducing complexity in
reporting financial instruments
, which will begin the process of
simplifying the lengthy and complex rules-based IAS 39 standard.

‘We are determined to simplify and improve IAS 39 by creating a
principle-based standard.

‘Those who believe in reducing complexity in accounting standards have now
the opportunity to shape the way ahead,’ said IASB chairman Sir David Tweedie.

The IASB has focused its discussion on the measurement of financial
instruments. It believes that there are too many classes of financial
instruments and too many methods for measuring them.

By introducing a single method of measurement, or at least reducing the
number of categories of financial instruments, the
IASB hopes it will be
able to strip the complexity out of the standard.

But Deloitte financial instruments partner Andrew Spooner says looking at the
measurement alone will not be enough.

‘The IASB’s paper focuses on measurement but doesn’t deal with presentation
and disclosure.

‘If you’re asking a corporation or bank which way you would like to measure
financial instruments, they will answer in one way or another, depending on
which way these will be presented.

‘In other words they will ultimately be interested in how these look in the
accounts and financial statements, to shareholders,’ said Spooner.

‘There is a second discussion to be had on this, on presentation, which is
equally important. It’s a combination of the two that people are interested in.

The deadline for commenting on the discussion paper is September 19, but the
debate has already begun.

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Fiona Westwood of Smith and Williamson.