IFRS update October 2005 – The regulators

With so many companies yet to report their first full set of IFRS numbers and
so many of the standards under review, it would be an exaggeration to say that
Sir David Tweedie’s role in the great changeover has finished.

Link: Access
IFRS – PwC’s IFRS resource centre

But for most listed companies the head of the International Accounting Standards
Board is no longer the public face of IFRS.

Sir David’s is a back room role now.
The job of policing IFRS compliance
falls to two other accountants and the organisations over which they preside –
John Tiner, the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, and Paul
Boyle, Tiner’s equivalent at the Financial Reporting Council.

Writing in the Financial Services Authority’s annual report in May, Tiner
spelt out the City regulator’s view of the transition. ‘This represents the
largest change in corporate reporting in Europe since the EU was created.

In the UK we have reminded companies of their new reporting obligations and
have tried to be helpful in the transition, for example by extending the filing
deadline for half-year accounts by one month.’

Tiner was playing the nice cop. A month earlier his markets division director
had played the nasty one.

Gay Huey Evans, the division head who left the FSA in July and has yet to be
replaced, wrote to the chief executives of all listed companies with primary
listings in London and said: ‘If issuers are not able to adopt IFRS in their
interim accounts where this is required, they will be in breach of listing rule
reporting requirements and deadlines.

‘Failure by issuers to submit interim results within the required timescale
is likely to result in the suspension of the issuer’s securities.’ That’s as
final a threat as you could hope to hear.

Over at the FRC, Paul Boyle, is in a similar frame of mind. Published last
December, the FRC’s plan and budget for 2005-06 set out its priorities for the
year ahead.

In a section entitled ‘Pro-actively enforcing accounting and other corporate
reporting standards’, the council reminded users it would be dropping its policy
of reviewing annual accounts and interims on a complaints-driven basis.

Instead it will be casting its net wider and earlier.

‘In terms of specific accounting requirements we will focus on entities whose
annual accounts are expected to undergo significant change as a result of IFRS,’
it stressed. In truth any material IFRS breach is likely to fall foul of the FSA
before it reaches one of the many arms of the FRC.

However whenever an FRC tentacle – in this case the Financial Reporting
Review Panel – believes there is, or may be, a question mark over whether a
company’s accounts comply with the requirements of the Companies Act, it will be
moved to take action.

In the panel’s own words: ‘As defective accounts could mislead the public,
the procedures need to allow for speedy rectification. The group aims to reach
agreement with the directors of the company by persuasion. If the group is
satisfied by the company’s explanations, the case is closed and the fact that an
enquiry was made remains confidential. Where the directors agree to take some
form of remedial action the panel issues a press notice.’

Be warned and be wary.


A who’s who guide to the key enforcers
You could write an A-Z of the bodies involved in the establishing and
policing of the new IFRS regime. From the Accounting Standards Board to XBRL
International (ok, it’s more of an A to X than A to Z), the body behind the
computer language that makes financial reporting simpler, there is no shortage
of acronyms.
But some are more equal than others.

A quick summary follows of a handful of organisations you should probably be
familiar with, though if you get the transition right, you will almost certainly
not have to concern yourself with any of them.

The Daddy. The International Accounting Standards Board, headed by
David Tweedie, has written the existing standards and is reviewing others that
will soon bite.

If you would like to enter into a dialogue with the body you are likely to be
disappointed. As its website makes clear: ‘The IASB does not encourage
constituents to submit technical inquiries.’

And while it acknowledges that ‘it is in our interests to hear about the
problems that our constituents encounter’, the board’s open-ear policy is
conditional. ‘Accounting firms and industry groups often prepare guidance on the
implementation of IFRS,’ it says.

‘Before we can accept a request to review materials, the submitting
organisation must agree to make whatever changes are proposed. We understand
some groups may be reluctant and will decide to go ahead without involving the

The US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, is led by Christopher
Cox, its chairman. There are a significant number of UK companies that have to
report in both US GAAP and IFRS and reconcile the two.

The SEC expects the number of foreign registrants using IFRS to grow from
under 50 to over 500.

FSA chief executive John Tiner also chairs the finance panel of the Committee of
European Securities Regulators – the EU body responsible for financial
reporting. It has provided guidance on the transition and has facilitated
discussions with relevant parties to secure consistent interpretations of FRS.

It produces a quarterly newsletter for listed companies and has set out a
series of best practice steps for issuers, providing information to the market
on the effect of the transition to IFRS.

The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board is part of the
International Federation of Accountants and sets the international auditing
standards used to police IFRS-compliant accounts. Its work, of course,
influences the Auditing Standards Board,which is part of the FRC.

The ASB establishes auditing standards that set out the basic principles and
essential procedures with which external auditors in the United Kingdom and the
Republic of Ireland are required to comply.

For the latest news
and analysis on IFRS, updated every week, register for Access IFRS – PwC’s IFRS
resource centre

Related reading

Fiona Westwood of Smith and Williamson.