Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Importance of Accounting

Accounting can seem a dreadfully boring subject to some, but it gets its moment in the sun whenever there is a financial crisis . . . remember Enron? This time around is no exception. During the panic of September, some people were calling for a suspension of mark-to-market accounting, and while they did not get what they wanted, they succeeded in inserting a provision in the first big bailout bill to study the relationship between mark-to-market accounting and the financial crisis.

A brief, high-level explanation of the dispute: Under mark-to-market accounting, assets on your balance sheet have to be valued at their current market values. So if you have $10 million worth of stock in Microsoft, but that stock falls to $5 million, you have to write it down on your balance sheet and take a $5 million loss on your income statement. The criticism was that mark-to-market was forcing financial institutions to take severe writedowns on assets whose market values had fallen precipitously, not because of their inherent value, but because nobody was buying these assets - think CDOs - and that banks were becoming insolvent because of an accounting technicality. Under this view, banks should be able to keep these assets at their “true” long-term values, instead of having to take writedowns due to short-term market fluctuations.

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1 comment:

SBL BPO said...

Thanks for this good post about importance of accounting...
Regards,
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