July 1, 2009

Here We Go Again: FASB Charging for “Souped-Up Version” of Accounting Standards

On Tuesday, the FASB released FAS No. 168, its codification of GAAP that has been long in the making and is officially launched as of today.

As Edith Orenstein notes in FEI’s “Financial Reporting Blog”: “FAS 168 represents the last numbered standard to be issued by FASB under the old (pre-Codification) numbering system, and amends the GAAP hierarchy to set the stage for a watershed moment – the July 1 launch of FASB’s Codification (full name: the FASB Accounting Standards Codification TM.) The Codification will supercede existing GAAP for nongovernmental entities; governmental entities will continue to follow standards issued by FASB’s sister organization, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).”

For a long time, I was miffed that the accounting standards that make up GAAP were not available for free. For us lawyers, this was akin to the SEC charging for access to its rules and regulations. About six years back, the FASB got smart and started posting its standards for free. Before then, just summaries were complimentary. (Note that a paper subscription always has – and still does – cost a fee.)

Now the FASB has done it again, charging an annual $850 subscription fee for the online “professional” edition of its codification of GAAP (a beta version was available for free during the recent verfication period). In comparison, the “Basic” version of the Codification is available at no charge (here is FASB’s “Codification Resources” page). From reading the descriptions of the two, I believe lawyers can live with the Basic version since the Professional one has bells & whistles not related directly to the content of the Codification (egs. better search tool and printing ability).

It gets me nervous when a regulator sells access to its regulations, even if its just adding bells & whistles. It’s a perception of transparency thing and a practice that should be prohibited. I understand that FASB is a non-profit organization and not a federal agency – but it still is a regulator by virtue of the SEC designating it as the organization responsible for setting accounting standards for public companies in the US. Let me know your thoughts (I won’t post them without your consent).

NYSE Permanently Lowers Market Cap Requirement

Yesterday, the NYSE filed two rule changes with the SEC – both effective immediately – regarding its continued listing standards so that:

– In this rule filing, permanently lowered the $25 million average market capitalization requirement to $15 million (a temporary bar at the $15 million level was set to expire yesterday).

– In this rule filing, extended the temporary suspension of the $1.00 average closing price requirement until July 31st (prior suspension expired yesterday).

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– Broc Romanek