WASHINGTON The top U.S. securities regulator said on Friday that the United States won't be rushed into a possible move toward a global accounting standard and will only adopt such a regime if it is good for U.S. markets.
"I don't feel any pressure at all to go along with anybody," said Mary Schapiro, the chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on the sidelines of the Practising Law Institute's annual SEC Speaks conference.
"I feel pressure to do the right thing for U.S. markets and U.S. investors."
More than 100 countries, including Europe, use accounting rules from the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and are waiting to see if the United States, the world's biggest capital market, adopts them too.
Other heavyweights like Japan would likely follow suit if the United States joined.
The idea behind such a move would be to make it easier for investors to compare the financial statements of U.S. companies with others based overseas. It would also make it easier for companies with a multinational footprint because they would only need to keep one set of books.
European Union Commissioner Michel Barnier is applying pressure on U.S. regulators this week during his visit to Washington.
At an appearance at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Barnier expressed disappointment that the SEC is moving slowly toward a decision on whether to phase out U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles known as GAAP in favor of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), set by the London-based IASB.
"European patience has its limits, and we are not far from reaching that limit," Barnier said through a translator. "We hope that the United States will apply these standards."
Barnier is due to meet with Schapiro later on Friday.
Since 2002, the SEC has been exploring ways to bring U.S. accounting standards more in line with international standards.
The SEC in May last year issued a report that looked at various methods to achieve convergence, but did not endorse a specific approach.
It noted that few countries had adopted IFRS without reserving the right to approve the standards first and tweak them to suit their needs.
It also discussed possibly allowing the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board to review IFRS standards before deciding whether to endorse them. U.S. standards would be retained and IFRS would be incorporated into them.
The SEC had been expected to announce a decision on IFRS by the end of 2011, but so far has not made any decisions.
SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker said earlier this week that he is "optimistic" that the United States can put forward a model for international accounting standards. He said SEC commissioners will receive a proposal in the coming months about such a switch.
Schapiro said on Friday that the SEC has been transparent with its work on the topic.
"The commission will consider it when the work plan has been executed and the chief accountant makes a recommendation to the commission," Schapiro said.
"These are decisions that will be made in the interest of investors."
(Reporting By Sarah N. Lynch and Dave Clarke; Additional reporting by Dena Aubin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)