October 9, 2008
I believe that the Commission should immediately exercise the powers granted it under Section 132 of EESA and suspend SFAS 157 for not less than 12 months, retaining required disclosure in the Notes of financial statements but setting aside fair value recognition in the balance sheet for the immediate term, to effect a ‘cooling off’ period. Even the most stalwart supporters of SFAS 157 agree that the timing of its implementation could not have been worse, on the eve of the present financial crisis. Given the increasingly disordered and chaotic spiral of events over the last 90 days, it is likely that ‘observed transaction prices’ will be increasingly adverse to institutions required to apply SFAS 157 to their balance sheets. This will foster additional losses, an increasing need for additional capital, and more panicked selling, thereby continuing the feed of additional losses once more. Although for some companies, this only affects a small portion of assets, this has proven to be fatal for others. Lending covenants and counterparty agreements are not re-written overnight: the credit markets have not had sufficient time to apply this standard to their operations, and the result has been painfully obvious and extremely expensive.
This said, SFAS 157 is an admirable goal, but the implementation has clearly been mishandled, and consequences have been far beyond what anybody anticipated at its inception. I applaud fair value disclosure, and I recognize great value in this. I would even go so far as to say that disclosure in the Notes alone would achieve the stated goal of transparency. No investor looking into investing in securities should be satisfied with mere financial statement analysis. As I know, because I am a security analyst, far deeper diligence is required, with the first reading after the financial statements being the Notes. I see the following statement as a part of financial statements: “The accompanying notes are an integral part of these Consolidated Financial Statements”. Whether I obtain greater value from an understanding of accounting policies, critical estimates, and item disclosure, including fair value assessments, I know that the analysis of the financial statements is not complete without a thorough analysis of the Notes.
There are many causes and possible remedies for the present financial crisis. Given that this is clearly an extraordinary situation, I believe that an extraordinary response is necessary. The SEC must immediately suspend SFAS 157 application to the financial statements. It has the power to do so, and must act immediately. Transparency can still be achieved through required disclosure in the notes. Given the fact that the current chaos in the financial markets is well-known, investors can each analyze these additional disclosures and come to their own conclusions — transparency is preserved, and yet the crisis of credit and counterparty is stemmed. The current situation has persisted long enough, and the message is clear. You must act immediately to suspend the present means of application of SFAS 157.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.
Chief Compliance Officer
Gimbal Capital Management