Volume 13, No. 11


Defining "Is": An Accounting Standard For Measuring Fair Value  One of the memorable legacies of the Clinton administration was the revelation that there could be so many possible meanings of the word is. If you recall, the 42nd President of the United States responded to a question with a response that went something like, It depends what you mean by ˜is'. Some of us still puzzle over the many communication possibilities presented by such a tiny word; perhaps we've never been quite aware of how badly we've been misunderstood by people who took the way we meant is as opposed to the way they understood is. So it is (there's that word again) in accounting: for years, the term fair value has been scattered throughout accounting literature and accounting-speak, without much consideration that it might have different meanings in different contexts. For the first time, the FASB is proposing a uniform definition of fair value in all of its existing standards, one that will mean the same thing in all standards as the board develops new ones involving fair value measurement.

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