The Financial Accounting Standards Board proposal is not written in stone yet. The main reason for this is that the Financial Accounting Standards Board is allowing for some time is to allow for investors and companies to provide their feedback to the Financial Accounting Standards Board regarding the current framework and feel of the proposals. The two main points of feedback asked for with the proposal is what people and investors think about the proposal and what would they prefer to happen to the rules and reporting requirements. The current deadline for the feedback is March 29th, 2013 (FASB, 2013).
Theoretical Model & Hypotheses
The basic question and issue being address by the Financial Accounting Standards Board as it relates to repurchase agreements is quite clear and is made much more so by consulting the Financial Accounting Standards Board documentation on the topic. They note that the permanent transfer of securities or other things of financial value are not the least bit controversial or chaotic when the transfer of goods is one way and is not contingent on a future transaction that resembles repayment for a loan in any way, shape or form. On the other hand, how to handle transactions where a transfer of goods is temporary and/or the transfer of goods will be reversed at a future date with anything that resembles interest is obviously up for debate and worthy of future review by accountants and other stakeholders that focus on the accounting and auditing reports for a firm (FASB, 2013).
There are a couple of hypotheses that the author of this report would offer. First, it is highly likely that there will be some detractors to the new policy framework but it is also likely that a lot of industry figureheads and leaders will view the proposal as being a good one and will support the framework update as a result. Second, the author of this paper will predict that the proposal will be adopted with little to no changes as there is nothing controversial or wrong-headed about the change as it makes perfect sense for transactions to be recorded based on what they effectively are. Even if a repurchase agreement is not technically a loan, it effectively is and that is the point to be taken from the form and function of the rules (FASB, 2013).
Even with the general agreement on the proper handling of repurchase agreements, the questions surrounding how to account for and administer such transactions is by no means uniform and homogenous and there are people that, legitimately or not, are concerned with how to properly account for such transactions and these people largely do not find the topic of repurchase agreements and the associated accounting handling a settled matter (Chircop, Kiossie & Peasnell, 2012). Given the unsettled nature of these questions, this is why the question is explained and shown in the theoretical framework/hypothesis section of this report.
The reason getting this question right is so very important is because financial institutions make rather heavy use of these transactions. As such, giving the reporting requirements a proper and compliant feel is very important. Taking this string a bit further, many people think the repurchase agreement tactic had a large role to play in the creating and aggravation of the global financial crisis that occurred from 2007 to 2009 both in the United States and around the rest of the world including Europe and other financial centers of the world (Chircop, Kiossie & Peasnell, 2012).
Perhaps one example of this in motion, and the reason for the earlier mention of even holding the accounting standards boards accountable, was the practice of Lehman Brothers (the failed financial firm that self-destructed massively during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009) to funnel their repurchase agreement transactions through the London office, rather than the United States, so as to avoid the standard enforced by the Financial Accounting Standards Board for United States-oriented and -- initiated transactions (Chircop, Kiossie & Peasnell, 2012).
Part and parcel of what can go terribly wrong when a repurchase agreement is made is when the party extending the collateral and receiving the "loan" is unable to afford buying back the instrument they disbursed when the "note" becomes due. This is known in the industry as a "repo fail." The amount of repo fails from 1990 to roughly 2001 was fairly inconsequential. However, there were four spikes in repo fails in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007. However, there was a huge spike in 2008 that roughly doubled that of any other single spike in the four years mentioned before.
First, the people and entities will likely complain and kvetch about the proposed regulations but anyone being honest and intellectually sound should admit that the standards being proposed are common-sense and proper and that there's nothing wrong with accounting reporting matching and completely stating what is going on. With the advent of nefarious firms like Enron, MCI WorldCom, and the like, honestly and completeness is always the best policy and leaving things off a report that investors have a right to know, even if it's supported or allowed for by current (or lacking) regulations, that does not make it right and it makes it all the more easier to obfuscate and otherwise pretty up a proverbial pig that should be presented as a pig and not a swan or left off the report to begin with.
The proposal is a good one, in the view of the author of this paper, and despite any reservations or complaints about the proposal, it probably will (and should be) enacted exactly as written as there is nothing improper or over the top about the proposal. The author of this paper is sensitive to the argument that overt and excessive government regulation is a bad thing but this regulation proposal is not an example of this and instead is focused on honest and complete reporting about the transaction itself as well as the nature of the transaction. If a transaction is effectively a secured loan, it should be treated as such…no more, no less.
In conclusion, intellectual and fair-minded people can disagree about how to properly regulate, account for and report repurchase agreements, but it is obvious in light of the Great Recession and other happenstances that something must be done to force the hand of agencies that either do not know or do not care to know how to properly report and track repurchase agreements. The trust of stakeholders and shareholders is at stake and the proper way to do repurchase agreement should be defined and standardized so that no firm can feign ignorance or there not being defined rules and this would then make them accountable to authorities as well as interested stakeholders and investors.
Chircop, J., Vicky Kiosse, P., & Peasnell, K. (2012). Should Repurchase Transactions
be Accounted for as Sales or Loans?. Accounting Horizons, 26(4), 657-679.
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