Friday, June 01, 2007

Political economy of FASB decisions

I haven't as yet tried to use this site as a research tool, but perhaps I should, so here goes.

In the article I'm working on concerning tax and accounting measures of income, an important issue is the political economy of how the two income bases are set. I certainly feel up to speed on the general issue of Congress and tax policy decisions, but the manner in which GAAP standards are set for financial accounting is more opaque to me. Yes, I can easily learn more about exactly how the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) operates, and I know a bit about the broader political setting - e.g., threatened Congressional interventions from the 1990s on concerning the treatment for financial accounting purposes of managerial stock options.

What I want, and am not at the moment entirely clear on how best to get, is a better feel for the real politics of the FASB process. For example, literature that I have seen gives me the overall sense that people think the process is better insulated from crass political intervention, e.g., by particular interest groups, than the process of determining taxable income. Of course, that sets the bar pretty low. I have also heard the view expressed that the accounting profession is pretty responsive, through FASB just as in client work, to the interests of managers as a group, leading to the kind of industry capture scenario that one would of course fear relative to the optimistic scenario where FASB responds more to official professional ideals by seeking unstintingly to serve investors and the cause of capital market transparency.

Any guidance that readers could offer me, be it anecdotal or systematic, informal or scholarly, would be most welcome, whether offered in the comments section here or off-line (my e-mail address is easy to find). Thanks.

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