In an interview with Accountancy Age, SEC international senior associate chief accountant Mary Tokar, said that although the SEC was working hard to modify the listing rules in the US to take account of international standards, the country's own experience with standard-setting ruled out the IASC proposals put forward in July. Those proposals included plans for a single board of 25 members of which 15 would be full time and 10 part time. Tokar said the pre-FASB body, the Accounting Principles Board, had been based on a similar concept but had failed to deliver more than a political compromise. 'The APB was composed of part-time volunteers, but ultimately there was a recognition that it was not serving the capital markets,' she said. 'There was an independent commission (the Wheat Commission) recommendation for an independent private-sector body with a smaller number of full-time members.' Her response will anger other members of the IASC including Accounting Standards Board chairman Sir David Tweedie, who has said that a key motive for the proposals was to keep the Americans at the negotiating table. The original plan had been for a two-tier board, although this has now been scrapped in favour of a single board. But Tokar added that the SEC - which delegates the power for accountancy regulation in the US to FASB - would support the formation of a board of trustees to act as an oversight committee to the IASC. Although she dismissed accusations that the SEC was acting arrogantly because of the power of the US economy, Tokar said the US was not about to give up its tough listing rules to make way for allowing companies to use IASs without having to reconcile their accounts using US GAAP. Many global companies have been keenly awaiting the outcome of the IAS evaluation exercise currently being undertaken by the international securities body, IOSCO. Companies have to obtain IOSCO's support to make cross-border listings and offerings using the same standards. It has already been four years since the IASC and IOSCO announced a programme to produce a set of standards that could be accepted for financial statements. The end of the process could still be a long way off if FASB refuses to give up its huge standards book. At last week's World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington, US Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan called for improved accounting standards. World Bank vice-president Jules Muis said that he was optimistic that convergence between the different interest groups was only a few years away, because everybody was aiming to strengthen accounting standards. 'Long term, all the players have an incredible interest in this working, but short term it hurts because first of all, you need to put teeth into the system - but whose teeth and where?' he asked. Muis added that the newly-formed International Forum for Accounting Development was already looking at the issue of where the Big Five, the World Bank, the IMF and standard-setters came together. He said he was looking forward to the rebirth of the IASC, with a constructive input from the Americans. 'We are talking with the standard-setters and they will talk back to us and that dialogue is important. This is a short-term situation deriving from moving from a rather cagey setting with a lot of non-discussible issues to a more open forum,' he said. But while acknowledging that the IASC would become more important, Muis said that it would not replace national standards bodies, which would be needed to ensure that quality was constantly improved.
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