HIGH COURT RULES CREDITORS CAN'T SEIZE IRAS: In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that creditors cannot seize individual retirement accounts in a bankruptcy filing, thereby classing them with pensions, 401(k)s and Social Security, which are afforded protection under bankruptcy law.
The case before the court involved a bankrupt couple from Arkansas who were fighting to keep more than $55,000 in retirement savings. Last year, more than 1.6 million people filed for personal bankruptcy, versus 875,000 a decade earlier. Experts say that much of that is being driven by people 55 and older who lose their jobs and can't pay off debts.
FOREIGN INVESTORS AND ANALYSTS VAGUE ON SOX 404 IMPACT: Investors and analysts outside the U.S. remain uninformed about the Sarbanes-Oxley rule on internal controls, and are concerned about the impact of negative disclosures. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of investors and analysts in North America, Europe and Asia who cover U.S.-listed companies, just 60 percent of analysts and investors in Europe, and a scant 40 percent in Japan, admit to some knowledge of SOX 404.
Big Four firm PwC polled 55 analysts, 45 investors and 5 credit rating agency analysts between January and February 2005. Some 39 percent of respondents were from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, 38 percent from Europe, and 23 percent from the Asia-Pacific region. Other findings include:
* Only about one in four respondents claimed to have a good grasp of how Section 404 will affect mergers and acquisitions; and,
* Nine out of 10 analysts and investors in Asia, where awareness is lowest, said that they would be very likely to sell or mark down shares in a company that was the subject of a negative disclosure, compared to seven in 10 in Europe and the U.S.
PRO-OPTION GROUPS RAIL AGAINST SEC GUIDELINES: Not surprisingly, opponents of expensing stock options have issued responses to the March 29 release of options expensing guidance by the Securities and Exchange Commission. With the release of SAB No. 107, the regulator reaffirmed its support of December's rule by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which mandates treating employee stock options as an expense.
"While the SEC has provided clarity on some issues surrounding the FASB rule, its decision not to further delay implementation is a significant blow to companies that provide broad-based stock option plans, especially those in the high-tech industry," said William T. Archey, president and chief executive of the high-tech trade group AeA.
Archey urged Congress to pass H.R. 913, the Broad-Based Stock Option Plan Transparency Act, a measure that would delay implementation long enough to conduct studies on the impact of stock options.
Meanwhile, Rick White, president of the International Employee Stock Options Coalition, said, "The coalition's mission has been to preserve broad-based employee stock options from draconian accounting rules, because stock options represent a vital economic tool for our nation."
STATE CPA LEADER TESTIFIES ON FINANCIAL EDUCATION: Citing research on the lack of basic financial knowledge among students and adults, Edward Polansky, CPA and chairman of the Texas Society of CPAs, testified before the Texas Legislature's Public Education Committee in late March in support of House Bill 492 - a measure that would require personal finance education for high school graduation.
According to the National Council on Economic Education, such requirements already exist in seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, New York and Utah.
Polansky pointed to statewide research conducted by the TSCPA showing that only 20 percent of Texans pay their credit card debt in full each month. Fifty percent of respondents said that they didn't learn about the need for financial planning and the importance of savings until they were in their 30s.
The TSCPA's research also found that 26 percent of Texans said that they aren't saving any money for retirement.
Polansky said that the TSCPA is prepared to help school districts comply with the bill by continuing to make available a multi-lesson curriculum guide developed by the American Institute of CPAs.
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