Accounting for financial instruments with characteristics of liabilities and equities has never been easy, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board has had a hard time hammering out the difference.

Even as the board issued Statement 150, Accounting for Certain Financial Instruments with Characteristics of Both Liabilities and Equity, in 2003, it considered the standard only one phase of a broader project that would end with the determination of liability and equity classifications for all financial instruments.

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