EU seeks to increase influence on global accounting rules

Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:46am EST
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By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union is seeking to increase its influence over global accounting standards by beefing up the agency that scrutinizes new rules and in certain cases tweaking how they are applied in the bloc.

The book-keeping standards, the bedrock of markets, are written by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). They apply in over 100 countries, including the EU, but not the United States.

Accounting rules have become highly politicized after policymakers around the world blamed them for exacerbating the 2007-09 financial crisis.

The standards must first be endorsed by the European Commission for use in the bloc but member states and the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group, or EFRAG, often give different views on their suitability.

The EU is the biggest contributor to the IASB's budget - it provided about a third of the 20 million pounds the board received in 2012 - but feels its voice is not adequately heard.

Michel Barnier, commissioner for financial services, asked former European Investment Bank chief Philippe Maystadt to recommend how the bloc can streamline advice and endorsement.

In a report published on Tuesday, Maystadt recommended beefing up EFRAG financially through compulsory levies on listed companies, and elevating its board to look at the political and economic as well as technical aspects of rules.

In a challenge to IASB authority, Maystadt also recommended changing how the commission endorses a standard, broadening it out from a simple yes or no to include the ability for "carve ins" - or local tweaks to the rules - but only to improve the "public good".   Continued...