One change would allow banks much more room to conclude that inactive markets are distressed, allowing them to value the assets at what they believe they would be worth in a normal market. The other change would let banks avoid reporting some of the impairment losses on their income statements.
Some financial institutions want immediate action. The Association of Corporate Credit Unions asked the board to make the change retroactive, so that 2008 annual reports could be restated. Whatever the details of the proposal adopted Thursday, it represents an abrupt turnabout for the board. Only a day before the Congressional hearing on March 12, Mr. Herz gave an interview in which he disparaged what he called “mark to management” accounting. But after the Congressional grilling, the board quickly moved to make it much easier for banks to value assets at what they should be worth, rather than what they were currently selling for.
The CFA Institute reacted bitterly to that about-face. “Continuing on the path of politicized accounting standard-setting that caters to special interests,” it wrote, would make it hard for the board “to maintain its credibility.”
In some ways, the reversal is similar to one that the board made more than a decade ago, when it backed down under Congressional pressure from a rule requiring that companies report the value of stock options as an expense. That rule was revived only after corporate scandals early in this decade.