Volume 12, No. 12

 

Pension Disclosure Patch: FASB's Service Pack 2 For Statement 87  Like a buggy version of Windows, Statement No. 87, Employers' Accounting for Pensions has driven its users batty for years. Waiting for the annual information to see how pension plans affected the earnings of the sponsors is much like the insufferable wait for your computer to reboot after a blue screen of death. Investors and analysts handled the barmy information in annual reports the same way they handled the snarled software on their computers: they gritted their teeth and conformed to the behavior forced on them by the very tools that were supposedly serving them. There simply have been no practical alternatives to either kind of standard. From time to time, Microsoft issues service packs designed to repair flaws in Windows and give it more stability and utility. That's another similarity between Statement No. 87 and Windows: in 1998, FASB issued Statement No. 132, Employers' Disclosures about Pension and Other Postretirement Benefits, to clarify and bolster the pension accounting disclosures. Call that pronouncement Service Pack 1: something that helped, but didn't chase away all of the gremlins. The improvements were insufficient in providing answers to the multitude of pension questions raised in the last few years. As the recent pension panic revealed more of Statement No. 87's flaws, FASB returned to the drawing board and whipped up a new exposure draft: call it Service Pack 2. Investors and analysts would be wise to examine the benefits and shortcomings of this new patch - before they have to live with it for years to come. A tech support call to FASB: instead of patching up a legacy standard, give users a whole new operating system.

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