Rep. Garrett Meddling with FASB

On Monday, I criticized political interference with US accounting standard setting and this morning I referenced innovative securitization deals that contributed to the credit crisis. Now I read that Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) yesterday offered an amendment to the House financial reform bill to require the accounting standard setter to prepare a written study on the effects of its new accounting standards for securitizations!

The current financial crisis, plus the Enron calamity earlier this decade, made clear the vitality of having accounting standards, for securitization and similar financial transactions, that make a company’s debt obligations transparent to investors. The Financial Accounting Standards Board has done just that by issuing two new accounting standards governing such deals. As always, FASB did so after extensive study, deliberation, solicitation and evaluation of comment letters from anyone interested in providing them.

Garrett’s proposed amendment would now impose a legal obligation on FASB to do a more particular study, in cooperation with various federal regulatory agencies, on the effects of the new standards on companies who do securitization deals. This is objectionable for at least the following reasons: (1) it is inherently objectionable political intermeddling into the independent accounting standard setting process; (2) it is the result of lobbying campaigns by banks and others in the business of securitization; and (3) it caters to those lobbying interests rather than focusing on those for whom accounting standards are written: investors.

Rep. Garrett says he’s worried that making securitizations more transparent to investors would make it more difficult for banks and other financial institutions to do them. That would, in turn, mean reduced availability of consumer credit. It is as if the Representative has not read a single newspaper in the last two years. After all, it does not appear that the biggest problems in the country the past decade were consumers borrowing too little or banks doing too few opaque financing deals.

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