* Could change way U.S. accounting rules are set
* FASB overseers to go on five-city "listening tour"
By Emily Chasan
NEW YORK, June 23 In a move that could change
the way accounting rules are set in the United States, the
group that oversees U.S. accounting rulemakers plans to embark
on a "listening tour" in the next few months to develop a new
two- to three-year strategic plan for its boards.
The Financial Accounting Foundation trustees, who oversee
the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), will meet
with small closed discussion groups of investors, auditors,
academics and regulators in New York, Dallas, San Francisco,
Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as with the FASB's
standing advisory groups.
"The meetings will be a key building block to our strategic
plan," FASB spokesman Neal McGarity said on Tuesday.
"This outreach process we are undertaking is a continuation
of the work the FAF trustees did over the last few years.
Although it's not something new, it's a strategic and ambitious
program to map out the course ahead."
Among the issues expected to be discussed at the meetings
are the convergence between international and U.S. accounting
standards, FASB's relationship with the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission, the role of the FAF in overseeing FASB's
independence, the size of FASB's board, and FASB's governance.
While the timeline is not yet definite, the FAF expects its
strategic plan to be released publicly early next year.
The listening tour comes as critics accuse FASB of not
having remained independent of political pressure when it
changed mark-to-market accounting rules in the past year.
The Investors Technical Advisory Committee, a FASB advisory
group, sent a letter to FAF Chairman John Brennan last week
saying it believes FASB's independence has been eroded by the
pressure from Congress and the financial industry, who sought
to give more flexibility to banks carrying toxic assets on
their books. [ID:N22522085]
The FAF and FASB have said that while the board did speed
up its due process to make changes to mark-to-market accounting
rules in April, it followed a rigorous process.
One of the aims of the "listening tour" is for the FAF to
widen the group of investors and other constituents it
interacts with, since its last overhaul of FASB's governance
structure in early 2008.
The FAF had acted in February 2008 to downsize FASB's board
to five members from seven and streamline the process for
deciding which projects get added to the board's agenda, but
the FAF leadership has changed since then. Brennan, who is also
the chairman of the Vanguard mutual fund group, was elected
chairman of the FAF trustees in February 2009 and Teresa Polley
was appointed president of the FAF in May 2008.
The trustees will also conduct a similar process for the
Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which sets U.S.
government accounting rules.
(Reporting by Emily Chasan; Editing by Gary Hill)