Monday, January 21, 2008

New pensions accounting to raise volatility reports Georgia Tech Financial Analysis Lab's research on The Effects of Enacted and Proposed Pension Accounting Changes On Leverage, Profitability and Earnings Volatility, in which researchers simulate the impact of probably forthcoming accounting for pensions changes in the US on the DJIA components' income statement, extrapolating FAS 158 numbers to be run through the income statement. Unsurprisingly, they find a huge impact on the volatility of reported earnings, among other items and ratios. In the 2002-2006 period, volatility effectively doubles. 

As FAS 158 is likely to inform the ongoing work on the revision of IAS 19, this kind of research is valuable for European users, too because it allows us to get used to different accounting treatments resulting from fair value accounting. It is important to keep in mind that these accounting rule changes will bring reported numbers much closer to economic reality than current accounting treatment ever can. If this increasing transparency leads to more sustainable risk management policies in enterprise sponsored retirement plans, then so much the better. Users of financial statements will be able to adapt their interpretations of the numbers in any case. 

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