The French finance chief, society and accounting
At least part of day today will be spent puzzling over the remarks of French finance minister Christin Lagarde.
She wqritesin today’s FT, and I think its worth quoting her on what she says about accounting standards.
In an column on extricating world economies from the crisis, she writes: “Further progress is also needed on accounting standards. Regulators should have their say on their ultimate purpose and ensure they do not promote volatility. Market value must be used, when relevant, in considering how a business uses its assets. But it should not be an excuse for failing to measure, assess and account. This is not a political issue but rather a matter of concern for society.”
I suspect standard setters whereever they are will be trying to decipher exactly what that means for them and their policies this morning. It is well known that Lagarde has been concerned about the work of the International Accounting Standards Board and that the French have complained bitterly about its approach to fair value and whether it is politically accountable.
But in this piece she seems to accept its independence and the principle of fair value, though with caveats that suggested though for the most part unelaborated.
What really interests me though is her stress on the importance of accounting standards. Just to revisit for a moment she writes they are a “matter of concern for society”. That’s the first time I have seen any politician elevate accounting and accounting standards to such a level.
But it also seems to hint that she still partly blames standards, and the use of fair value, for the crisis. Otherwise how would it be of societal importance, rather than just for business alone.
Like to hear your insights into exactly what you think she means.