On the money with Gavin Hinks

Gavin Hinks, editor of AccountancyAge

If Obama does win, it might be that his advisers will be the real influence
on the profession and the man Obama is listening to right now is Paul Volcker,
former Federal Reserve chairman and former chairman of the International
Accounting Standards Committee.

Volcker is a giant of US finance. He is the man credited with bringing
monetary discipline to the Fed in the 70s ­ though it was at the cost of huge
unemployment ­ essentially winning back its reputation for sound economic

But why is this important? Well, he’s advising Obama but holds accountants ­
and auditors ­ in high regard. His time with the IASC convinced him that
convergence was a worthy project.

As we approach the presidential election, it’s worth bearing in mind these
thoughts from Volcker during a speech in April.’ I’ll tell you one thing I’ve
learned in recent years is that accounting is very important.

Auditing is very important, and it’s intellectually, as well as practically,
very difficult in this complicated financial world in which we live.’ It doesn’t
get much clearer than that.

Having a voice like that in the White House saying ‘you can’t blame
accountants’ has got to be a good thing. That said, Volcker is not a cheerleader
for fair value. In the same speech he said: ‘You can get caught in a kind of
spiral that marking down leads to questions which leads to more marking down
potentially beyond what you think of as the real value of the asset’.

This could be problematic for international standards. But it does indicate
that he’s a man who might counsel against dumping convergence in order to dump
fair value. And that might be the most valuable asset available for investors
intent on protecting fair value.

Gavin Hinks is the editor of Accountancy Age

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