We Need Honest Accounting – Wall Street Journal op-ed, Jim Chanos, Kynikos Associates LP.
Mark-to-market (MTM) accounting is under fierce attack by bank CEOs and others who are pressing Congress to suspend, if not repeal, the rules they blame for the current financial crisis. Yet their pleas to bubble-wrap financial statements run counter to increased calls for greater financial-market transparency and ongoing efforts to restore investor trust.
We have a sorry history of the banking industry driving statutory and regulatory changes. Now banks want accounting fixes to mask their recklessness. Meanwhile, there has been no acknowledgment of culpability in what top management in these financial institutions did — despite warnings — to help bring about the crisis. Theirs is a record of lax risk management, flawed models, reckless lending, and excessively leveraged investment strategies. In the worst instances, they acted with moral indifference, knowing that what they were doing was flawed, but still willing to pocket the fees and accompanying bonuses.
MTM accounting isn’t perfect, but it does provide a compass for investors to figure out what an asset would be worth in today’s market if it were sold in an orderly fashion to a willing buyer. Before MTM took effect, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) produced much evidence to show that valuing financial instruments and other difficult-to-price assets by “historical” costs, or “mark to management,” was folly…..