Monday, March 30, 2009

To Mark or not to Mark....

CNBC would have you believe that investors want to eliminate the FASB accounting rule - 'Mark to Market'. This would allow our insolvent banking system to not have to raise additional capital - at a prohibitive / dilutive stock price - where the only likely investor to have that much cash would be the government ( totally socialiing our banking system). That thinking is, and would be wrong.

I myself, have been calling for FASB to "relax" mark to market rules since last year. Do not mistake relaxing mark to market with eliminating it. The market needs two things;

1) They want clarity, and accountability (mark to market is supposed to have provided this in theory).

2) They want marks that reflect HOW a company is holding an asset on their books (if they are holding an asset to maturity, and that asset is still paying as scheduled, it should not need to be markeded to market).

In reality, what the market wants (and what I hope we get from FASB) is both. We do it now with GAAP vs non-GAAP earnings... Think about it - Gaap vs non-Gaap allows us to view earnings per share for what they REALLY are (diluted via potential stock option conversions vs earnings without all those additional shares).

So FASB please give us what we want (and need);

1) Require banks to post a number on their Q's that reflect the CURRENT market for their assets - but only for the purpose of "clarity and honesty". From a capital requirement, let them mark it to a realistic date that they expect to hold that asset.

What do you think they should do? Let's discuss it on Twitter.

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