Owens-Illinois (OI) restated its financial statements for the year 2015 due to a disagreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding how the firm accounted for unasserted claims related to asbestos litigation. Almost 60 years ago, OI sold approximately $40 million of a product that contained asbestos and has subsequently accrued almost $5 billion of liability related to those sales. From 2003 through 2015, OI had been estimating unasserted claims over a rolling three-year window, which the firm viewed as preferable because it improved the reliability of the resulting estimate that was important given the volatility of asbestos litigation. The SEC required that OI accrue unasserted claims for as far into the future as foreseeable. While the accounting change increased the estimate of the total liability for asbestos litigation, when it was allocated to individual years, this change materially increased OI's earnings for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015. Another interesting aspect of the change was that the SEC's required accounting treatment resulted in OI returning to the manner in which it had originally estimated asbestos liability (pre-2003).

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