Finance Execs Back FASB Initiative

April 6, 2006 ( - Senior finance executives are flocking to support the new Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) rule requiring balance sheet expensing for their pensions and other retiree benefit programs.

A new Grant Thornton survey found that nearly nine in 10 (87%) of the 122 finance officials polled say they agree with the requirement that companies should have to report the status of their pensions and retiree benefit programs (See  FASB Issues Proposed Accounting Changes for Pensions and OPEB ), reported.

The proposal may be less objectionable to finance chiefs than previous FASB pension standards “because corporate pension information is already disclosed in the notes to the financial statements,” John Hepp, a senior professional-standards manager at Grant Thornton, told “The results of the survey may also reflect the long-term shift from corporate defined benefit plans to defined contribution retirement programs such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans. The latter will not be affected by the FASB proposal.”

Also, not surprisingly, 84% of the CFOs and controllers say that it should be tougher for bankrupt companies to turn over their pension obligations to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the agency that insures private sector defined benefit pension plans. Since the PBGC’s pension-insurance reserves are funded by corporate premium payments, executives of healthy firms bridle when companies in Chapter 11 try to dump their liabilities, the news report said.

The survey, which polled finance executives at companies ranging in size from more than $2 billion in annual revenues to less than $50 million, found that 55% believe that the general quality of financial reporting has improved since the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley. Still, 76% felt that there is still a need for greater transparency in financial reporting.