I have never understood those brief retro flashbacks in terms of apparel and other cultural timepieces. My aversion becomes especially relevant when I see ads for wide-flare pants or automobile designs that harken back to the popular styles of about three decades ago.
In other words, the 1970s.
No one I know doesn't cringe when they see a picture of themselves from that era. I still keep a Kodak moment from my college days, complete with silk shirt, pucka-shell necklace and Fry boots. And that's just the one I'd show in mixed company. The others are stored in Area 51.
I'm sure the Financial Accounting Standards Board has unpleasant memories of the 1970s as well - because up until last month, it was the only time that the Securities and Exchange Commission had ever interfered with one of its standards. Only this time, as opposed to the oil and gas standards of roughly 30 years ago, the interference dealt with the explosive issue of expensing stock options, with the SEC voting to delay the effective date of FASB Statement No. 123R, which required companies to treat employee stock options as expenses.
Depending on where you sit, or more accurately, in what sector you ply your craft, you're either opening bottles of Crystal to toast the wisdom of the SEC, or wondering whatever happened to the agency that its former chairman, William O. Douglas, once labeled "the investor's advocate."
Now, the battle over stock options expensing doesn't quite date back to the debut of "Y-M-C-A," but it has been around for the better part of a decade.
The tech sector, its affiliated lobbying groups, and lawmakers whose constituencies draw heavily from technology have been resisting options expensing like a three-year-old being offered castor oil.
I was somewhat perplexed by the statement of the SEC's chief accountant, who said, in effect, that implementing 123R in any period other than the first quarter could make compliance "more complicated."
Okay. That being said, here's my question: How did the hundreds of companies that voluntarily expense stock options manage to make it happen?
The SEC also pointed out that, because of additional compliance responsibilities (i.e. SOX 404), accounting staff at companies and firms "have already been stretched thin."
Again, I remain unmoved. Now, while I don't doubt for a second that 404 compliance is indeed a burden on a company's financial cadre, I point again to the number of companies that have managed to successfully juggle both. Besides, was the wording of 123R so different from the FASB proposals of the last 10 years that it required a half-year respite?
Obviously, the SEC decision affects only the implementation date and not the standard itself, but it seems troubling that, in a time when there is a rather wide rift between the SEC commissioners, and when its director of enforcement has handed in his notice, a decision like this was even considered, much less made.
Let's hope the SEC's return to the 1970s, however brief, doesn't include elevator music at its headquarters blaring the Captain & Tennille.
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