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IASB Chair Hoogervorst Fights for Leasing Changes

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By Michael Cohn
November 6, 2012

International Accounting Standards Board chairman Hans Hoogervorst is pushing back against efforts by industry lobbyists to reject changes that would put many types of lease obligations on businesses’ balance sheets for the first time.

Hoogervorst insists the leasing changes, which the IASB has been laboring over the past decade with the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board to achieve, would “bring much-needed transparency” to lease accounting.

Speaking at the London School of Economics and Political Science on Tuesday, Hoogervorst emphasized the extent to which lease arrangements have become one of the greatest sources of off-balance sheet financing for many companies. He stressed that efforts to bring greater transparency in financial reporting have often been answered by strong resistance and lobbying from industry interests, but those same enhancements eventually became accepted as normal business practice.

Hans Hoogervorst

“Our efforts to shed light on hidden leverage should be warmly welcomed around the world,” said Hoogervorst. “The fact is that we are still facing an uphill battle. We will need all of the help we can get, to ensure that we do not get lobbied off course.”

However, he should not expect business groups to drop their opposition so easily, as the struggle over the continuing exposure and re-exposure of the proposed leasing standards is not yet settled. FASB chair Leslie Seidman recently told Accounting Today that she expects a second converged exposure draft to be released in the first quarter of 2013 (see FASB’s Seidman Lays Out Schedule for Remaining Convergence Projects). “We are substantially converged on the leasing proposal from top to bottom,” she said.

While FASB and the IASB may finally be in agreement on the leasing standards, that doesn’t mean businesses like airlines, which traditionally do not carry their leased aircraft on their balance sheets, are ready to agree with the two standard-setting boards. Industry representatives and trade groups are not going to back down without a fight, but apparently the standard-setters will be ready for them.

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