There used to be this great TV spot for a large commercial bank that spoofed its competitors' overlong waiting periods before depositors could get approved for a loan.

It showed an ancient loan officer, his desk and nameplate draped in cobwebs, dismissively tenting his fingers and slowly repeating, "It'll be any day now."

While the cobwebs surrounding the debate over private company reporting standards are perhaps more figurative than real, many in the profession who prepare financial reports have no doubt felt like those impatient customers while awaiting a yea or nay decision to proceed with this 30-plus year issue.

Last week, the Financial Accounting Standards Board announced that it has begun developing a "differential framework" that would help provide a short-term solution for creating distinct standards or exceptions for private companies.

This stopgap measure will apparently have to do until FASB's overseer, the Financial Accounting Foundation, mulls the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel, which suggested that FAF establish a separate board to handle differential standards reporting.

In the interim the Blue Ribbon Panel  suggested that FASB develop a different framework for private company standards.

As such, FASB released a document titled "FASB in Focus" in which it discusses a roadway to the long-sought-after differential standard-setting framework.

FASB identified a half-dozen criteria separating financial reporting considerations of private companies from public issuers: types of users, access to management, investment strategies, ownership structures, accounting resources, and education.

While even a small measure of progress in this discussion - which has been going on for so long it can almost be carbon-dated - it also "buries the lead' as we ink-stained wretches like to say, by skimming over the fact that the last thing FASB wants to do is cede control over private company standard setting, which would likely happen with the creation of a new board.

That, coupled with the uncertainty of the future role of FASB should the SEC eventually decide to forge ahead with International Financial Reporting Standards, has the standard-setter more than a little concerned.

It is not likely to receive any type of private standards endorsement from organizations like the AICPA.

In June, AICPA chief Barry Melancon told more than 1,000 attendees at the institute's Practitioner's Symposium/Tech + Conference that the "status quo" was not acceptable (read: FASB remaining in charge) and called for the creation of the separate board.

Ditto for McGladrey managing office partner and former PCPS chairman Richard Caturano who recently told Accounting Today, "We've been waiting a long time for clarification of some of the standards for private companies. For decades, FASB has been focused on the needs of the public companies."

With roughly 50 percent of the economy comprising  private companies, clearly the time has come to get past the "any day now" mantra.

Short-term solutions are good up to a point, but then eventually you have to clear the cobwebs for good.

 

 

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