Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FASB and its Effect on the World Economy

The Financial Crisis of 2007-2009 started and ended largely as a result of the actions of a small group of men known as the FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board).  This is WAY under-reported by the media, but I learned about it from Bill Isaac on Fox News Channel during the financial crisis.

To be brief, in 2007 the FASB introduced accounting rule FAS 157 aka the "Mark to Market" accounting rule.  That required financial institutions to raise more and more capital to meet reserve and margin requirements as their illiquid asset values plummeted. In other words, they had to sell more and more assets as the value of those assets declined. This created a self-perpetuating and accelerating financial vortex for some very large institutions from which they could only be saved by the Federal Government.

Under great political pressure, Congress passed the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008", which authorized the SEC to review the FASB rules.  By March 16, 2009 FASB finally relented on the worst provisions of the rule and the market instantly turned positive.  This rule has also been attributed with increasing bank profits in the recovery (and thus executive bonuses) by exaggerating the increase in asset values after they were artificially depressed by the collapse.

I'm not really complaining about FAS 157 (as modified) since it brought the financial world back to reality from its euphoric bubble.  But as with any good regulatory body, they abused their power.  Thank God they finally came down off their pedestals before financial Armageddon, which was within days of becoming reality in 2009.  "Vogons" exist in the FASB...

I suppose the point of bringing this up now is this: the financial meltdown and its meteoric resurrection was a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense.  But the political reaction to it, and the resulting massive public debt are very real.  Unwinding that will be painful if even possible.

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