In 1996, a major financial reporting controversy emerged, escalated, and was resolved without substantial exposure or a formal due process. Specifically, a committee of the Financial Executives Institute (FEI) sent a letter to the chair of the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) asserting that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) “process is broken and in need of substantive repair.” When Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Arthur Levitt determined that neither FAF nor public accounting leaders were dealing with the FEI proposals to his satisfaction, he acted to defeat this perceived threat to FASB's independence, focusing on the composition of the FAF. In response, the FAF trustees resisted because they viewed his intervention as a threat to FASB's independence. When the trustees did not voluntarily change, Levitt proposed reconsidering Accounting Series Release No. 150, which designates FASB as the sole source of GAAP for SEC filings. Eventually, Levitt prevailed. This paper describes this intervention as a case of policy making without a formal due process and adds to the already weighty evidence that accounting standards are political.
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