Many of you, I'm sure, have been reading that the U.S. Postal Service is on the precipice of default, struggling to avoid austerity measures in the face of its deficit, which, according to reports, will reach $9.2 billion this year.
On a brighter note, several thousand members of the American Institute of CPAs did their part in keeping post offices across the country busy - specifically, in a recent letter-writing campaign calling for the establishment of a separate board for private company standards.
According to the institute, nearly 3,000 letters were sent to the Financial Accounting Foundation - overseer to both the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board - urging it to establish a new board under the FAF's purview to oversee differential reporting for private companies - one that operates independently and not subject to a veto from FASB. That includes correspondence from some 33 state societies. The postal campaign was in response to a recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Standard-Setting for Private Companies, which backed the creation of a separate board in a report released in January.
The result of these legions of cramped writing hands?
The FAF's trustees have proposed establishing a Private Company Standards Improvement Council, a body that, in their explanation, would be able to "identify, propose and vote on improvements to U.S. accounting standards specifically for private companies." The proposed group, which would supplant the current Private Company Financial Reporting Committee, would include between 11 and 15 members, appointed by the FAF trustees, and would represent a diverse cadre of users and preparers of private company financial statements. In addition, the council's chairman would be a FASB member appointed by the FAF trustees. Any changes in standards would need approval by a two-thirds majority vote.
Obviously, the plan stops more than a few feet short of creating a separate board, which, in a surprise to exactly no one, drew more letter-writing ire - this time sent electronically - from AICPA CEO Barry Melancon and 2010-2011 chair Paul Stahlin, filled with phrases like "profound disappointment" and "failure." And to be sure, the proposal will generate a lot more correspondence in the coming months, as many will no doubt see this as little more than a glorified strategy to maintain the status quo.
Last month, both FAF CEO Terri Polley and FASB Chair Leslie Seidman sat with Accounting Today as part of the organization's recent outreach in communications, in lieu of its traditional subdued stance as a heavy bag ripe for body blows from both the institute and, occasionally, lawmakers. Seidman explained that FASB had been conducting more outreach to private company constituents and added a board member from private industry - Daryl Buck, chief financial officer of grocery retailer Reasor's Holding Co. FASB also has added a special Web portal with information for private company and nonprofit constituents and has been developing a framework in order to provide a temporary solution for creating standards or exceptions for private companies as a response to the Blue Ribbon Panel's report.
The FAF is eliciting comments on the plan by Jan. 4, 2012, and wants to conduct roundtables across the country in early 2012.
If and when this dustup is finally settled, there may finally be some measure of progress on the three-decade old issue of private standards. But until then, the influx of letter-writing should keep the folks at the post office hopping for at least a while longer.
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