The debate about whether fair value, or mark-to-market accounting, is the best way for companies to value their assets ensued October 29 during the SEC’s roundtable discussion on the topic.
“Fair value accounting is the best method to provide transparency” to investors, argued Vin Colman, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, during the panel. Any changes to mark-to-market accounting, he said, “would cause investors to lose confidence.” Scott Evans executive VP, asset management and CEO of two TIAA-CREF advisory units–like many others on the panel–agreed with Colman that “public markets are best served” by fair value accounting. While Evans, like others, conceded, however that the accounting method is “not perfect” and needs review, he said fair value is not one of the causes of the market crisis. Bill Isaac, former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), disagreed, stating that he believed fair value accounting has contributed to the market upheaval. “Mark to market can only be applied to a small portion of the balance sheet,” Isaac said, only the assets, not the liabilities. This, he said, “creates a false impression” about a bank’s asset status. “Banks will have a mismatch between assets and liabilities.”