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Did the Financial Crisis Report Come Too Late?

January 30, 2011

The release last week of the report by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission came about six months after the passage of the financial regulatory reform bill, when it might have done some good.

Some analysts are now questioning the timing of the report, and saying it came too late (see Commission Reports on Financial Crisis Causes). However, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies are still in the process of drawing up the detailed regulations that will put into place many of the sweeping provisions mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and that may help the report exert some influence over the rulemaking process.

“I guess maybe the good news is that the train has not completely left the station,” said CFA Institute managing director Kurt Schacht in an interview. “There are some people that are concerned about the sequencing of the report and the fact that Dodd-Frank is already done and now we’re coming out six or seven months later with what purports to be another assessment of what went wrong and maybe some commentary on how you might fix it, and I think we’re past some of that discussion.”

Kurt Schacht

He noted that the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Standards Board are also still working out many issues as they move toward convergence. Those include the problems with repurchase agreements uncovered by Lehman Brothers' use of so-called “Repo 105” transactions to shift billions of dollars temporarily off its balance sheet before reporting quarterly results.

“There’s sort of a wild agenda on both the regulatory front as well as the financial reporting standard-setting front,” said Schacht.

“We need to stop wasting time and fix some of the serious weaknesses that were revealed by the crisis,” he added. Among them are off-balance sheet issues and the level of subjectivity with respect to how certain assets are valued, particularly “toxic assets” such as impaired loans. The rulemaking process by the SEC and FASB may be helped by the report, even if the release date did come too late to influence the overall legislation.

For more on the report, you can listen to a podcast of Kurt Schacht here.

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