Several times, we have written about the Financial Accounting Standards Board's proposed renovation of its standards for pensions and other post-retirement benefits, mostly in support of its initial modest proposal to move the off-balance-sheet assets and liabilities onto that statement. To avoid controversy, FASB is leaving the expense untouched for now, but will thoroughly reconsider it in Phase Two of this project.Despite this caution, the comment letters show that this go-slow approach certainly has not sheltered FASB from the same self-serving, inane arguments that were offered up two decades ago.
As we see it, like psychologists who force troubled patients to confront their worst fears, FASB has once again made management come to grips with their pensionaphobia, which, simply put, is the fear of telling the truth about one's own pension plans. For years, managers pretended that the fabricated numbers in the statements were authentic, and ignored the relevant (and revealing) numbers hidden away in arcane footnotes where they don't have to be explained in earnings calls and releases.
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