The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting: How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World

Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business, Sep 2017

Abstract: Historically, every country had its own accounting standards, each merging to some extent with its local corporate, labor, and tax laws. No matter how undesirable, it was natural to expect differences among nations. Globalization made these differences so impractical that from corporate leaders to accountants to government officials, many pushed for harmonized accounting standards. Pursuing this goal, a private international organization was created to set standards for the world. Currently around 120 countries require or permit International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), however, the United States is yet to make a decision to adopt these international standards. The adoption of IFRS in the United States would, in theory, be easier compared to the experience of the European Union. The EU mandated that all publicly traded firms use IFRS in their consolidated financial statements from 2005 onwards. Several issues are yet to be resolved, but Europe managed to achieve what was once thought to be an insuperable task in coordinating a common standard for its Member States. If the adoption of IFRS in the United States would be easier than the EU experience, why has the United States not adopted IFRS? With this paper, I argue that IFRS are a set of U.S. supported Anglo-American accounting standards. Further, that the reason for creating IFRS was not necessarily for the United States to adopt them but to convert the patchwork of accounting standards around the world into a single system that is similar to U.S. GAAP.

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The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting: How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World

Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business The P olitical Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting : How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu 0 1 Recommended Citation 0 Thi s Article is brought to you for free and open access by Northwestern University School of Law Scholarly Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business by an authorized editor of Northwestern University School of Law Scholarly Commons 1 Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu, Th e Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting: How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World , 37 Nw. J. Int'l L. & Bus. 459, 2017 - Copyright 2017 by Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business Printed in U.S.A. Vol. 37, No. 3 The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting: How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu* Pursuing this goal, a private international organization was created to set standards for the world. Currently around 120 countries require or permit International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), however, the United States is yet to make a decision to adopt these international standards. The adoption of IFRS in the United States would, in theory, be easier compared to the experience of the European Union. The EU mandated that all publicly traded firms use IFRS in their consolidated financial statements from 2005 onwards. Several issues are yet to be resolved, but Europe managed to achieve what was once thought to be an insuperable task in coordinating a common standard for its Member States. If the adoption of IFRS in the United States would be easier than the EU experience, why has the United States not adopted IFRS? With this paper, I argue that IFRS are a set of U.S. supported Anglo-American accounting standards. Further, that the reason for creating IFRS was not necessarily for the United States to adopt them but to convert the patchwork of accounting standards around the world into a single system that is similar to U.S. GAAP. * Adjunct Professor, Fordham University School of Law; Lecturer, Deakin Law School. Special thanks to Afra Afsharipour, Hilary Allen, Martin Gelter, Sean Griffith, Larry Cunningham, Frank Gevurtz, Virginia Harper Ho, Katharina Pistor, David Zaring, Stephen Zeff and the participants of the American Society of Comparative Law (ASCL)–Younger Comparativists Committee (YCC), Second Workshop on Comparative Business and Financial Law held at UC Davis School of Law; also to the participants of the Accounting, Economics, and Law module of the 27th Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) Annual Meeting held at the London School of Economics and Political Science. 37:457 (2017) I. INTRODUCTION A harmonized set of accounting standards has been a major step in the process of integrating capital markets, however, half a century passed without achieving the goal.1 Historically, every country had its own accounting standards, each merging to some extent with its local corporate, labor, and tax laws. Even culture is said to affect national accounting standards.2 No matter how undesirable, it is natural to expect differences among nations. This variance is sometimes described as a “chaotic patchwork of diverging rules.”3 As a consequence, corporate leaders, accountants, government officials, and others worked to harmonize accounting standards to enable international comparability of corporate financial statements. The International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) was founded in 1973. The scope of its role was to help “small developing countries with no accounting standards of their own to develop accounting rules.”4 Over time, however, it transformed into the most powerful organization in the setting of international accounting standards. By 2001, IASC renamed itself the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) of the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS Foundation). It was registered in the United States as a Delaware corporation. In its rise to become the most influential organization of this type, the IASB successfully deposed the United Nations (and other organizations) to set standards in this domain. It became the premier organization setting international accounting standards – at a time when many nations, stock exchanges, and listed companies were striving for harmonization. Approximately 120 countries now require or permit International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).5 This figure will likely rise to 150 countries in the near future. However, the United States is yet to decide whether to allow Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business or adopt IFRS for U.S. issuers.6 In an earlier paper with Martin Gelter, we argued that the adoption of IFRS in the United States would, in theory, be easier compared to what was required of the EU to harmonize their standards.7 Both IFRS and U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (U.S. GAAP) developed within the Anglo-American accounting tradition, whereas, until the adoption of IFRS, accounting in Europe had not.8 Yet, a brave decision was made and a major step was indeed taken when the EU Parliament approved the adoption of IFRS:9 the EU mandated that all publicly traded firms use IFRS in their consolidated financial statements starting in 2005.10 There are several issues yet to be resolved, but, all in all, Europe managed to achieve what was once thought to be an insuperable task in coordinating and harmonizing the set of standards for its Member States. If the adoption of IFRS in the United States would, in principle, be much easier than the EU experience, why has the United States not adopted IFRS? The standard setters have been converging U.S. GAAP and IFRS for more than a decade; however, the process has yet to come to an end. Further, there is no consensus on whether it is beneficial for the United States to adopt IFRS. Scholars researching the adoption of IFRS in the United States have argued that IFRS are not a good fit for the United States because IFRS are principles-based, whereas U.S. GAAP are rules-based,11 or that they are not a good cultural fit.12 Others argued such an adoption would eliminate the 37:457 (2017) competition between U.S. GAAP and IFRS.13 Still others argued that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not have the authority to adopt the standards set by an international organization.14 In sum, scholars compared the differences between IFRS and U.S. GAAP, or focused on the fact that it is an international organization that sets the standards. None of these arguments are convincing. With this paper, I argue that IFRS is a set of U.S.-supported AngloAmerican accounting standards, and the reason for creating IFRS was to convert the patchwork of accounting standards of multiple jurisdictions into a single system that resembles U.S. GAAP. From its initiation, IFRS were not necessarily designed for the U.S. listed companies to adopt them but for the rest of the world to adopt a set of standards that resembles US GAAP. It was clear that the world was not going to adopt U.S. GAAP as there has always been resistance to any one country’s standards being chosen as the world’s common denominator.15 In light of this, I argue that the United States, with its multiple actors and institutions – such as SEC and FASB – successfully managed an international organization to conform to a set of standards similar to U.S. GAAP. The article proceeds as follows: Part II situates IFRS in the law and economics discussion about mandatory disclosure, and the comparative corporate governance literature. It reviews the patchwork of national accounting standards used before the adoption of the IFRS and explains how those differences were linked to diverging corporate governance regimes around the world. It also evaluates whether the adoption of IFRS is signaling 13 See, e.g., Shyam Sunder, IFRS Monopoly: The Pied Piper of Financial Reporting 41 ACCT. & BUS. RES. 291 (2011); Shyam Sunder, IFRS and the Accounting Consensus, 23 ACCT. HORIZONS 101 (2009); Karim Jamal & Shyam Sunder, Monopoly or Competition: Standard Setting in the Private and Public Sector (Univ. Alberta Sch. Bus. Research Paper No. 2013-1005, 2007),; Shyam Sunder, Uniform Financial Reporting Standards: Reconsidering the Top-Down Push, THE CPA J., Apr. 2007, at 6; Ronald Dye & Shyam Sunder, Why Not Allow FASB and IASB Standards to Compete in the U.S.?, 15 ACCT. HORIZONS 257 (2001). 14 See, e.g., Lawrence A. Cunningham, The SEC’s Global Accounting Vision: A Realistic Appraisal of a Quixotic Quest, 87 N.C. L. REV. 1, 28–33 (2008); Questions from Senator Carl Levin for Mary Schapiro, Nominee to be Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission 4 (Jan. 8, 2009), SenatorLevin012009.pdf (asking whether the Sarbanes-Oxley Act allows “the SEC to delegate the development of U.S. accounting standards to the IASB”); Jacob L. Barney, Note, Beyond Economics: The U.S. Recognition of International Financial Reporting Standards as an International Subdelegation of the SEC’s Rulemaking Authority, 42 VAND. J. TRANSNAT’L L. 579 (2009) (questioning the SEC’s authority to recognize standard-setters besides FASB). But see Sarbanes-Oxley Act § 108, 15 U.S.C. § 77s(b) (reaffirming the SEC's role in establishing accounting standards to be used by public companies). 15 Stephen Haswell & Jill Mckinnon, IASB Standards for Australia by 2005: Catapult or Trojan Horse, 13 AUSTL. ACCT. REV. 8, 8 (2003). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business the end of this divergence, or whether a capital market-oriented set of standards can coexist with different corporate governance regimes. Part III reviews the historical context (including the rise of multinationals and the desire of stock exchanges to attract foreign issuers) and seeks to explain how the IFRS Foundation became the standard-setter for the world. Part IV envisions the direction of the IFRS Foundation and a possible SEC decision on the adoption of IFRS for U.S. issuers. II. THE PATCHWORK OF NATIONAL ACCOUNTING STANDARDS A. The Road Towards Mandatory Disclosure Regulation Every company, big or small, listed or not, and located anywhere in the world, produces some sort of financial report to better understand itself, estimate its capabilities and, when necessary, inform outsiders of its profits or losses. Beyond a basic desire to inform and understand of profits or losses, financial reports help corporations do business with each other, build trust in the market, evaluate themselves (in comparison to competitors), invest capital, pay dividends, raise capital, and so on. Without a financial report, a company has no direction, no mechanism for self-evaluation, and no basis to compare itself with its competitors. That all companies voluntarily produce some sort of a financial report is one of the universal characteristics of corporations. Indeed, history’s oldest writing system, Sumerian cuneiform, developed out of the accounting technology created by farmers of the Fertile Crescent.16 They used “simple shapes for accounting purposes, such as recording numbers of sheep and amounts of grain” which developed into a writing system.17 Voluntary production of financial reports precedes the development of a writing system itself. Voluntary disclosure is no surprise. Nonlisted companies in the United States, for instance, are not required to prepare financial reports in compliance with U.S. GAAP, but they do so voluntarily– their creditors most likely ask for them, or they would need these reports if they go public. When this is the case even for nonlisted companies, there are more benefits when listed companies voluntarily disclose financial reports. A Leftwich, Watts, and Zimmerman study from 1981 revealed that managers exceed minimum reporting requirements as “it is in the interest of the manager to provide these 16 JARED DIAMOND, GUNS GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES 218 (1999). 17 Id. 37:457 (2017) reports voluntarily.”18 Many corporations provided interim reports even in the 1920s–before the establishment of the SEC.19 Agency theory implies economic incentives for managers, such as good reputation, as reporting profits ultimately enhances compensation of the managers.20 Voluntary disclosure plays a critical role for firms when competing to raise capital in markets where limited capital is available.21 Voluntary disclosure also serves to enhance monitoring as many information asymmetries among investors are eliminated by making financial reports available in the public domain.22 Disclosure may ultimately decrease the cost of capital and increase firm value.23 Each firm’s disclosure, in the aggregate, makes it easier for investors to evaluate and compare firms, “lower the estimation risk"24 and “eliminate duplicative efforts of information intermediaries and investors.”25 Yet, it gets more complicated when negative effects and firm-specific costs are considered. Preparation and dissemination of the financial reports are direct costs and can be substantial, to say nothing of indirect costs.26 For instance, the information provided to raise capital may be used by competitors (i.e., profitability of a specific business), employees (including the managing team when calculating bonuses) or tax authorities.27 Just as firms that disclose more information can attract investors to the detriment of their competitors, the same is true for competition among capital markets. Leuz and Wysocki explain “high transparency in one capital market can siphon off investors and lower the price efficiency in other capital Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business markets.”28 This could explain why NYSE is the largest stock market in the world by market capitalization–its value is more than the next three combined.29 However, misreporting activities “have negative spillovers to related firms, governments, and investors,” and can cause marketwide negative effects.30 Such a marketwide effect was seen in the Enron and WorldCom examples.31 Cost-benefit analysis tells us that financial reporting and disclosure have many firm-specific and marketwide benefits; thus, that firms voluntarily disclose some information is no surprise. However, the optimal level of disclosure to raise capital while avoiding the aforementioned costs is unique to each firm, and would vary from company to company in the absence of a common standard.32 This dynamic gives rise to question of whether voluntary disclosure is desirable and sufficient both for firms and the market, or whether requiring and regulating disclosure will better serve those interests.33 It has been argued that “anyone who genuinely desires information about a firm can obtain it” by privately contracting with someone with access to it (i.e., the firm itself, stock analysts, etc.).34 Yet, it would be prohibitively costly and inefficient if firms bargained for the information to be provided to its shareholders, debt holders, employees, customers, and suppliers at the start of each contract negotiation.35 This inefficiency would multiply when these stakeholders sought to compare the disclosures with information The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting provided by other companies (and, particularly if the credibility and reliability with voluntary disclosure is in question). As Coffee explains, in a capital market-oriented system, voluntary disclosure will not be reliable when one considers agency costs as it may be “sheltering opportunistic managerial behavior.”36 Voluntary disclosure would enable managers to withhold critical information or disclose some the way they prefer and at a time they see it beneficial. When, for instance, managers oppose a takeover, voluntary disclosure would help managers delay the downward adjustment in stock price.37 Thus, mandatory disclosure seems to be a healthier way to respond to such problems. 38 From negotiating disclosures to comparability, from limiting the private benefits of controlling insiders to providing ease of access to capital markets, bank loans, and investment alternatives for investors, regulation has various marketwide and firm-level cost savings.39 Mandatory disclosure could be optimal even for creditors such as banks, as they will find it more reliable and efficient to gather information relying on a standardized set of disclosure rules. Regulation provides unification over implementation, enforcement, and sanctioning in a way that is cheaper and more efficient than voluntary disclosure.40 In addition, mandatory disclosure regulations ensure the reliability and accessibility that allows financial markets to flourish. A philosophical justification is that in an “open and democratic society,” regulating disclosure would be the reasonable road to constant improvement of accounting standards.41 Finally, the concept of information as a public good plays a critical role for financial reporting standards, financial accounting information provided in the capital markets, and information from non-issuer sources (such as information provided by securities analysts.)42 There are two main reasons why these are seen as public goods. First, one can access and use accounting Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business standards, financial reports, and the securities analyst reports without paying for them.43 Second, the value of these goods does not diminish with usage, regardless of whether they are available for, and used by, others.44 However, if public goods are unregulated, they tend to be underprovided–due to externalities. Moreover, these circumstances suggest the presence of free riders and the inability to charge all users.45 Regulation and standardization improves efficiency (and lowers cost) by providing a basis from which to validate information for accuracy.46 For this reason, mandatory regulation is viewed as the best alternative in the case of disclosure of financial information in the capital markets. There is widespread agreement that regulation is beneficial for the development of financial markets.47 With the acknowledgment that mandatory disclosure is more beneficial than a voluntary regime, the discussion turns to who will regulate. One country may choose a private standard-setter to regulate, while another might envision disclosure requirements as the product of a formal legislative process–and would not allow it to remain in the hands of private parties. Some would prefer a public agency to enforce the rules, while others may find such an agency cumbersome and inefficient. Further, there may be regulation at the country level, state level, or exchange level. Yet, as new trends show, standard setting could also occur at the international level, unifying the disclosure regulations of adopting countries and increasing network effects.48 Choosing among the aforementioned alternatives, and accounting The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting regulation itself, is a political activity.49 It is not possible, even for regulators, to determine the optimal level of disclosure.50 To further complicate the political process of regulation is the potential presence of regulators who may be incompetent, corrupt, or captured by the industry to be regulated.51 Moreover, regulation in accounting affects income and wealth distribution and will be “benefitting one group at the expense of another.”52 As Perry and Nölke put it, Resolution of social conflict over resources is not simply recorded by accounting after the event; rather, accounting numbers themselves form the basis for such resolutions. Accounting impacts the lives of everyone in the society, even (or perhaps especially) those who know very little about the subject and have never set eyes on a financial statement.53 In light of these considerations, mandatory disclosure is the subject of political decisions rather than an outcome of a pure economic analysis.54 B. Divergent Financial Accounting Systems Until the Worldwide Adoption of IFRS Economic analysis is inevitable where governments or private actors set accounting standards, yet a purely economic analysis may not reveal the underlying reasons of a chosen set of standards. Almost every nation had its own accounting system until the worldwide adoption of IFRS, because accounting was seen as a national matter. To the extent markets were closed, there was no necessity to understand other counties’ accounting standards nor was there a desire to look at the financial reports of companies located in other countries. At the national level, it was—and it still is—mandatory to have some sort of financial reports for some or all companies incorporated in that jurisdiction, but these financial reports were (and still are) not necessarily used for the same purpose or prepared for the same audience. Nor the standards or the standard setters resembled one another. In some countries, financial accounting has been closely connected to tax accounting, which is why standard-setting has sometimes been seen as a 49 See e.g., WOLK ET AL., supra note 20, at 101–07. 50 Id.; Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 16. 51 See e.g., Shleifer, supra note 47, at 440–41. 52 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 16. 53 James Perry & Andreas Nölke, The Political Economy of International Accounting Standards, 13 REV. INT’L. POL. ECON. 559, 560 (2006). 54 WOLK ET AL., supra note 20, at 101. Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business legislative task. In such countries, accounting has been regulated as part of their company law and tax law. In other countries, however, tax accounting and financial accounting are separate; in this case, private actors, such as a group of experts, generally set financial reporting standards. This patchwork has been fading away, to some extent, as more countries adopt IFRS for public firms. But does it really mean that the world of financial accounting is now harmonized for listed companies no matter where they trade? It is important at this point to note that most countries are adopting IFRS for publicly traded firms, not necessarily for small or nonlisted ones. The EU for instance, has mandated IFRS since 2005, but only for consolidated accounts of listed companies.55 Company level accounts and nonlisted companies fall under national accounting laws—at least so long as the Member State does not require or permit IFRS for other accounts.56 With the trend to harmonize accounting standards across nations, the question becomes whether all companies should be viewed the same way when it comes to disclosure, or should various corporate governance regimes be taken into account (and have companies disclose differently)? In other words, does it make sense to treat all companies the same for accounting purposes? Recent developments allow us to answer a portion of this question, as public firms are already treated differently. IFRS are not designed for small or nonlisted companies–IASB promulgated separate standards for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) called “IFRS for SMEs”; however, these are at an early stage in terms of adoption, compared to IFRS.57 However, the question goes beyond an SMEs versus multinationals discussion. Should divergent corporate governance regimes be taken into account, or should they be disregarded under the assumption that IFRS are right for all public firms–no matter where they are located and irrespective of their governance structure? 1. Differences Among National Economies The existence of financial markets depends on accessible and The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting trustworthy information.58 Mandatory disclosure is essential for capital markets and is beneficial both for listed companies and investors in capital markets. Yet, not all national financial systems are capital market-oriented. When it comes to capital market-oriented regimes, the world closely watches U.S. capital markets. However, others argue to discredit it. Among those, Doidge, Karolyi, and Stulz point to a record number of foreign companies delisting from U.S. capital markets and argue that the U.S. capital markets have a “listing gap” (meaning they do not have as many listed companies as they should.)59 Nevertheless, the United States, with NYSE and NASDAQ, has the largest capital market in the world by market capitalization. The United States is followed by the UK, Japan, and China, but the size of all three of the latter combined does not match the size of the U.S. capital market. Aside from a handful of developed capital markets across the globe, however, the majority of countries do not have developed capital markets. Many countries were not interested in developing capital markets until the 1990s. Academics have examined the underlying reasons for capital markets to operate less well in certain countries. In a series of papers, LLS et al., linked it to “good” or “bad” corporate laws.60 In those papers, LLS et al. argued that financial development is linked to “legal origin” such as common law versus civil law, and concluded that common law rules are more market friendly and thus superior, while French civil law rules are the least desirable.61 The World Bank, the IMF, and the very countries these academics researched, used these studies to push for better-functioning capital markets and changing laws to resemble the capital market-oriented systems.62 At the Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business same time, globalization increased the ease of investing in capital markets internationally–with just clicks from a computer with an internet connection. These forces started to change the classical understanding of competition among countries to attract such investors, and the way corporations seek financing. When LLS et al. argued that common law provided better investor protection rights and better property rights, and thus is a better fit for financial development, international organizations, especially the World Bank, started to develop policies that advised the creation of institutions and the implementation of laws that resembled those of common law economies.63 However, the IMF and the World Bank seemed to disregard the harsh criticism LLS et al. faced since the publication of their original paper, Law and Finance.64 In that paper, LLS et al. linked the development of stock markets to firm level investor protection, focusing on corporate law and then 820 (2009) (“Although it initially appeared to be scientific in nature, the aim behind the study emerged to be a biased promotion of common law countries to conquer the law market at the expense of the other great legal family, referred to as the French civil law tradition in the reports.”); id. at 823 (“their methods, their questionnaires, and modification of certain indicators. Because they were drafted by economists and because the greatest influence in economics emanates from the United States, these questionnaires appeared skewed in favor of the common law from the start.”); Ronald J. Gilson, Catalysing Corporate Governance: The Evolution of the United States System in the 1980s and 1990s, 24 COMPANY & SEC. L.J. 143, 143 (2006) (“By the close of the 1990s, the United States corporate governance system . . . was treated as the end point in the burgeoning convergence literature and was the template for the reform efforts of major NGOs, like the World Bank, the OECD and the International Monetary Fund”); Maria Pargendler, The Corporate Governance Obsession (Stan. L. & Econ., Olin Working Paper No. 470, 2015) ,; see generally Alvaro Santos, Labor Flexibility, Legal Reform, and Economic Development, 50 VA. J. INT’L L. 43 (2009) (“develop insights gained from comparative law and legal theory to challenge the World Bank project's theoretical assumptions, pointing out its methodological flaws and showing its potentially misleading recommendations for legal reform.”); Catherine Valcke, The French Response To The World Bank’s Doing Business Reports, 60 U. TORONTO L.J. 197 (2010). 63 WORLDBANK, DOING BUSINESS IN 2004: UNDERSTANDING REGULATION (2004) (subsequent annual reports can also be reviewed); see e.g., Pistor, supra note 58, at 1656–57 (“The failure to explain the link between legal origin and specific legal institutions is particularly disconcerting when this framework is used for policy purposes. After all, most of the LLS et al. studies were sponsored by the World Bank and the World Bank has used the indicators for assessing countries’ legal systems and to motivate policy advice (Doing Business Project).”). Interestingly, even Wikipedia mentions La Porta et al. at their page on the Doing Business Report. Ease of Doing Business Index, WIKIPEDIA, Ease_of_doing_business_index#Doing_Business_Report (last visited Dec. 19, 2016) (“The Doing Business Report has its origins in a paper first published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics by Simeon Djankov, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes and Andrei Shleifer called ‘The Regulation of Entry’ in 2002.”) . 64 Even further, they seem to have disregarded the criticism about their policies relying on the research of La Porta et al. See generally Pistor, supra note 58. For further articles with a criticism towards the World Bank’s Doing Business Reports, see supra note 62. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting on securities law, but never banking law, which itself suggests a preference for capital market-oriented financial systems.65 Moreover, developments in the law generally follow economic developments, as it grows to address new situations or react to crises.66 However, LLS et al. treated the presence of particular laws as a precondition of economic development.67 Securities law in the United States, for instance, is a response to the Great Depression; the Sarbanes-Oxley Act came only after the Enron scandal; and the Dodd-Frank Act could have never been enacted if the 2008 financial crisis had not occurred.68 65 Pistor, supra note 58, at 1651 (citing Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, What Works in Securities Laws?, 61 J. FIN. 1 (2006)). 66 Roberta Romano, Regulating in the Dark and a Postscript Assessment of the Iron Law of Financial Regulation, 43 HOFSTRA L. REV. 25, 25 (2014) (“foundational financial legislation tends to be enacted in a crisis setting”); Roberta Romano, Further Assessment of the Iron Law of Financial Regulation A Postscript to Regulating in the Dark (Euro. Corp. Gov. Inst., Working Paper No. 273, 2014),, (“[T]here is a systemic pattern in major U.S. financial regulation: (i) enactment is invariably crisis driven . . . .”); Roberta Romano, The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Making of Quack Corporate Governance, 114 YALE L.J. 1521, 1523–29 (2005) (explaining the aftermath of Enron and others and how high profile corporate scandals pawed the way for the enactment of SOX); id. at 1528 (“SOX was emergency legislation, enacted under conditions of limited legislative debate, during a media frenzy involving several high-profile corporate fraud and insolvency cases”); see also Stephen M. Bainbridge, Dodd-Frank Quack Federal Corporate Governance Round II, 95 MINN. L. REV. 1779, 1780 (2011) ("In response to public outrage prompted by stock market losses and seemingly rampant fraud, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002”) ; Peter T. Muchlinski, Enron and Beyond: Multinational Corporate Groups and the Internationalization of Governance and Disclosure Regimes, 37 CONN. L. REV. 725, 745 (2005) (“[T]he main thrust of post-Enron reform has been to establish a stronger regime for the oversight of auditors and of the auditing process. This has been led by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act . . . .”); id. at 759 (“Sarbanes-Oxley can be seen as a reactive measure that sought to ‘plug’ the gaps in corporate governance systems and accounting and auditing practices that were identified as key to the Enron crisis.”); Gerald F. Seib, The President’s Agenda: Rahm Emanuel Discusses What He Expect to Pass (Everything), WALL ST. J., Nov. 23, 2009, R 10 (citing President Barak Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, saying “never let a serious crisis go to waste”). In line with regulating after the crisis, Romano tells how, in the absence of the crisis, the legislative process will slow down. Roberta Romano, Does the Sarbanes-Oxley Act Have a Future, 26 YALE J. ON REG. 229, 233 (2009) (“Notwithstanding a slow-moving legislative process in the absence of the crisis environment that gave rise to SOX, the widespread criticism of SOX has had a discernible effect, causing the SEC to revisit its implementation in order to take preemptive action that could deflect and drain the energy behind efforts by Congress and business interest groups to revamp the legislation."). 67 Pistor, supra note 58, at 1653–54; John C. Coffee, Jr., The Rise of Dispersed Ownership: The Roles of Law and the State in the Separation of Ownership and Control 111 YALE L.J. 1, 7 (2001) (“Much historical evidence suggests that legal developments have tended to follow, rather than precede, economic change”). 68 See supra note 66 and accompanying text; see also Coffee, supra note 67, at 24–39 (giving historical examples from the U.S. experience on how U.S. laws followed the economic change.). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business In addition, in today’s complex world where various laws were transplanted into national legal systems and influenced by multiple economies at different times, it is not black or white to determine a country’s “legal origin.”69 Siems, for instance, points out the difference between transplanted and origin economies and criticizes the arbitrary way LLS et al. determine countries’ legal origin.70 For instance, Lithuania belongs to the French legal family whereas Latvia, together with China and Japan, belongs to the German legal family.71 Also, Armour & Lele show how making a judgment on the basis of legal origin can mislead, such as an assumption that Indian laws are ‘good’ because of their common law origin.72 Both Roe and Coffee have collected historical evidence and shown that neither “legal origin” nor “rules that provide better investor protection” boost national economies, noting various reasons why countries have different legal origins.73 Economic choices cannot possibly lead to the desired outcome if national differences are disregarded. To better understand how and why capital markets evolved in common law countries but not in Continental Europe, there is a need for further consideration of politics and the different needs that arose after World War I and II; moreover, the effects of colonization on both origin and transplanted economies need to be evaluated.74 When Hall and Soskice’s pathbreaking work Varieties of Capitalism came out, the differences among developed economies became clearer and, more importantly, it became evident that there is more than one path to economic success.75 Paralleling the civil law vs common law discussion of The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting LLS et al., Hall & Soskice distinguish between coordinated market economies (CMEs) and liberal market economies (LMEs), with LMEs being common law countries and CMEs being civil law countries.76 They do not claim one economy’s superiority but examine the institutional complementarities and show comparative institutional advantages of each type of economy.77 After all, “each system produces its own costs and benefits in economic, social, and political terms, and the relative costs and benefits may change over time.”78 Since more and more scholars agree that there is no single recipe for economic success, one would suspect that different varieties of capitalism would necessitate different varieties of accounting standards. But, as the next Part shows, varieties of accounting standards are fading away in the name of harmonization and for the sake of global comparability.79 From a comparative corporate law perspective, however, it is problematic to assume that a capital market-oriented system or any one system would be the best choice for the world, irrespective of how corporations function in that specific economy, and how interrelated institutions operate therein. No matter how global the world is, locality is still an important aspect for every corporation. 80 Put differently, a German company might seek ways to raise capital and thus decide to be listed in the NYSE, yet this does not change the fact that the company is German and it may well maintain German characteristics such as employee representation on its boards in a way that would not be normal for a Delaware corporation Rather, each interlocking institutional set does different things with different degrees of success.”). 76 See, e.g., Katharina Pistor, Legal Ground Rules in Coordinated and Liberal Market Economies, in CORPORATE GOVERNANCE IN CONTEXT: CORPORATIONS, STATES, AND MARKETS IN EUROPE, JAPAN AND THE U.S. 249, 249–52 (Klaus Hopt et al. eds., 2005). 77 See e.g., Howell, supra note 75, at 106. (“a crucial part of the theoretical framework of Varieties of Capitalism is the specification of two ideal-types, liberal market economies and coordinated market economies, each with a distinctive set of institutions that solves the coordination problems of firms in quite different ways.”). For a detailed explanation of institutional complementarities, see Peter A. Hall & David Soskice, An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism, in VARITIES OF CAPITALISM, supra note 75, at 17–18 (“The returns from a stock market trading in corporate securities, for instance, may be increased by regulations mandating a fuller exchange of information about companies.”). 78 Pistor, supra note 76, at 249. 79 See e.g., Yuan Ding, Jacques Richard & Herve Stolowy, Towards an Understanding of the Phases of Goodwill Accounting in Four Western Capitalist Countries: From Stakeholder Model to Shareholder Model, 33 ACCT. ORG. & SOC. 718 (2008) (making such a point about goodwill accounting). 80 See, e.g., Paul L. Davies & Klaus J. Hopt, Corporate Boards in Europe–Accountability and Convergence, 61 AM. J. COMP. L. 301, 302 (2013) (“The overall result is an unstable balance between convergence and divergence, shareholder and stakeholder influence, as well as European v. national rulemaking.”). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business in the United States.81 The same is true with a companies’ percentage of listed shares in any exchange. It is not surprising to see, for instance, an Italian listed company controlled by a single shareholder or a family holding the majority of the shares of a listed firm. The fact that an Italian firm is listed does not transform its structure into dispersed ownership, nor does it change the way it is controlled. Therefore, it is not clear why, via the mandatory usage of IFRS, all listed companies should be treated as if they have a dispersed ownership structure and a shareholder primacy feature as the main goal of financial reporting. It is necessary to understand corporate structures around the world before one can focus on whether setting financial reporting standards rooted in the classical Berle-Means corporation (dispersed ownership structure allowing the separation of ownership and control) would be beneficial all around the world. More precisely, it is crucial to understand whether such standard setting would be beneficial even for economies with concentrated ownership (where there is agency conflict between controlling and minority shareholders), and for economies where other stakeholders (such as banks, states, and employees) have a stronger voice compared to their counterparts in capital market-oriented systems. When corporate governance structures are not the same, but the same standard is implemented, the outcome might well be different. For this reason, implementation incentives need to be different for dispersed ownership and concentrated ownership, which implies a difference in the IFRS practice across corporate governance regimes. For example, in dispersed ownership, shareholders often rely on financial reports where incentives for the implementation of IFRS would arguably be higher. Yet, increasing disclosure requirements and higher standards for transparency will diminish private benefits of control and a decrease in managerial discretion that may not be what a board of directors would want.82 In other words, in 81 See, e.g., Martin Gelter, The Dark Side of Shareholder Influence: Managerial Autonomy and Stakeholder Orientation in Comparative Corporate Governance, 50 HARV. INT’L L.J. 129 (2009). Moreover, even if there are some German companies interested in cross-listing, a bulk of German companies, especially the small and medium-size enterprises most likely have no such interest. 82 See Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, Investor Protection and Corporate Governance, 58 J. FIN. ECON. 3, 3 (2000) (explaining the differences among countries in ownership structures by looking at “how well investors, both shareholders and creditors, are protected by law from expropriation by the managers and controlling shareholders of firms.”); see also Hollis Ashbaugh, Non-U.S. Firms' Accounting Standard Choices, 20 J. ACCT. & PUB. POL’Y. 129, 130– 32, 149–150 (2001) (finding that firms are more likely to use IAS when they will issue additional shares of stock and when their shares trade in more foreign equity markets. Ashbaugh defines this as firms attempt to lower information asymmetry component of their cost of capital); Hollis Ashbaugh & Morton 37:457 (2017) countries with dispersed ownership, investors would want IFRS implementation, while some managers may oppose due to the fact that corporate managers in dispersed ownership may engage in “earnings manipulation.”83 An analogous argument could be for outside investors versus controlling shareholders in a concentrated ownership where outside investors want IFRS implementation while some controlling shareholders oppose it. In countries with dispersed ownership disclosure requirements, one should arguably find more supporters as the pool would include almost all shareholders, whereas in concentrated ownership, supporters would be limited to minority shareholders. As this example shows, IFRS may be effective when the governance structure of a company is dispersed ownership; however, this will not be the case in every country because private benefits of control are smaller in countries with extensive investor protection.84 Also, it has been argued that the reduction in private benefits after IFRS adoption is larger in countries with weak investor protection where company insiders have a higher cost of adopting IFRS.85 Looking at the current approach in the global accounting standard setting process for IFRS, the focus is not on the differences among corporations in different economies. Instead, IASB looks at firms from a 37:457 (2017) to produce results more effectively. It was also easier to convince other countries once the common-law countries expressed a mutual position. Moreover, having such a group readily available proved an effective means of leverage with other nations and international organizations who might be inclined to move in a different direction. With such study groups, the United States had the option to proceed with alternative organizations over the IASB. In one instance, this dynamic helped the United States convince the IASC to follow an SEC proposal over a European one.179 The SEC had proposed a structure with an expert-based board similar to that of the FASB (in the United States), whereas the European Commission proposed a representative model that would be “independent of any national standard setter or any group of national standard setters.”180 The United States threatened to empower the G4 and move forward without European input, if this was to happen. In May of 2000, IOSCO provided its endorsement, and approved thirty standards set by the IASC and recommended its member jurisdictions to allow multinational issuers use these standards.181 The SEC was among the IOSCO members that approved and recommended the standards, though their consent was based upon the condition that IASC would restructure according to the SEC’s preferences. After receiving conditional IOSCO approval and continued SEC pressure, IASC restructured in 2001 with a fulltime standard-setting body, the IASB.182 Soon after the formation of the 179 SEBASTIAN BOTZEM, THE POLITICS OF ACCOUNTING REGULATION: ORGANIZING TRANSNATIONAL STANDARD SETTING IN FINANCIAL REPORTING 97–98 (2012) (citing CAMFFERMAN & ZEFF, supra note 146). For Strategy Working Party (SWP)’s 1998 and 1999 Reports, see STRATEGY WORKING PARTY, INT’L ACCOUNTING STANDARDS COMM., SHAPING IASC FOR THE FUTURE (1998), en/binary/restruct/1998swp_1.pdf; STRATEGY WORKING PARTY, INT’L ACCOUNTING STANDARDS COMM., RECOMMENDATIONS ON SHAPING IASC FOR THE FUTURE (1999), binary/restruct/1999swpfinal.pdf. Right after the publication of the final SWP report, the SEC showed its support. Press Release, Lynn E. Turner, Statement of SEC Chief Accountant Lynn E. Turner on IASC Board Decision to Support Restructuring Plan (Nov. 17, 1999), press/pressarchive/1999/99-152.txt (“This proposal balances calls for a structure based upon geographic representativeness and those based on technical competence and independence.”). 180 STRATEGY WORKING PARTY, INT’L ACCOUNTING STANDARDS COMM., RECOMMENDATIONS ON SHAPING IASC FOR THE FUTURE 96–97 (1999), 1999swpfinal.pdf. 181 Press Release, IOSCO, IASC Standards (May 17, 2000), IOSCONEWS26.pdf; IOSCO Resolutions, IOSCO.ORG, resolutions (last visited Dec. 19, 2016) ; see also Arner, supra note 161, at 1575; CLARE ROBERTS ET AL., INTERNATIONAL CORPORATE REPORTING: A COMPARATIVE APPROACH 340–41 (4th ed. 2008). 182 See, e.g., NOBES & PARKER, supra note 107, at 96, 103 (“IOSCO and the SEC were important Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business IASB, the G4 announced that they would no longer meet; most of the AngloAmerican standard setters became IASB members.183 In June 2000, shortly after the IOSCO’s endorsement in May of that year, the European Commission published an outline strategy on financial reporting. With it, the European Commission proposed to mandate the use of IFRS by all listed companies by 2005.184 To implement this strategy, in 2002 the European Commission passed a regulation mandating IAS/IFRS by 2005 for consolidated reports of all listed companies in the Member States of the European Economic Area.185 At the time, Europe faced internal pressure to adopt international standards to facilitate multinationals’ cross-listings, especially in the United States. In 2001, International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRSF or IFRS Foundation) replaced IASC. Since then, IFRSF operates as a not-for-profit corporation incorporated in the State of Delaware and the board sits in London where the Foundation is registered as a foreign company, an American one. 2. IASB Cooperates with FASB Even after the IASC restructured and the EU mandated the use of IAS/IFRS, seven years passed (until 2007) before the SEC allowed foreign companies to cross-list in the U.S. using IFRS. U.S. regulators did not let foreign issuers convert to those standards without a “heavy guiding hand.”186 However, even with the heavy resemblance and strong SEC guidance, U.S. multinationals still do not have the option to use IFRS. U.S. listed firms must use U.S. GAAP.187 The IASB restructuring in 2001 strengthened relations between FASB contributors to the discussions that led to the creation of the IASB in 2001 .”). 183 Street, supra note 176, at 109; NOBES & PARKER, supra note 107, at 95. 184 COMM’N OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES, EU FINANCIAL REPORTING STRATEGY: THE WAY FORWARD (2000), PDF. This publication is mentioned even in IAS Regulation that later mandated the use of IAS/IFRS. IAS Regulation, supra note 10 (“On 13 June 2000, the Commission published its Communication on ‘EU Financial Reporting Strategy: the way forward’ in which it was proposed that all publicly traded Community companies prepare their consolidated financial statements in accordance with one single set of accounting standards, namely International Accounting Standards (IAS), at the latest by 2005.”); see also ROBERTS ET AL., supra note 181, at 438. 185 IAS Regulation, supra note 10; see also ROBERTS ET AL., supra note 181, at 439. 186 Martinez-Diaz, supra note 1, at 6. 187 For further comments on U.S. listed firms using GAAP but not allowed to use IFRS a discussion on whether there should be an option, see Gelter & Kavame Eroglu, supra note 7, at 166–89. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting and IASB; further, the two boards signed the Norwalk Agreement in 2002 that led to regular meetings and ongoing work on the convergence of their standards.188 For many, the structural similarities, the convergence project, and strong SEC monitoring turned the IASB into a “carbon copy” of FASB– only with global power.189 IASC had already approved the “Framework for the Preparation and Presentation of Financial Statements” in April 1989 which heavily relies on the Statements of Financial Accounting Concepts (SFACs), a series published in 1980s by FASB.190 This framework was formally re-adopted by the new board, the IASB, in April 2001 and has been revised several times since then. In spite of revisions the 1989 framework is still in effect.191 The revisions on the Conceptual Framework of the IFRS over time brought it even closer to that of the FASB. The “three-tier governance structure” of IFRS is copied from the U.S. model of FASB. Both FASB and IASB have trustees of their respective foundations appointing the members of the standard setting boards and both have an advisory council.192 In addition to U.S. representation in each “tier,” the U.S. SEC is among the members of the monitoring board (together with the European Commission, IOSCO, as well as the securities regulators of Japan, Brazil, Korea, and China).193 Since the most powerful member of the IOSCO is the SEC, arguably SEC dominance is even stronger at the monitoring level. A good example for the dominance of the United States and of a capital market-oriented regime is the IFRS Interpretations Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business Committee (former IFRIC) liaising with the U.S. Emerging Issues Task Force. In addition to this liaison, it has fourteen representatives out of which currently only two members are from all Continental European countries combined while the United States and the UK have three members each. If one member each from Canada, Australia, and South Africa added, there are nine members from common law countries reviewing the implementation of IFRS and providing authoritative guidance.194 “[T]he FASB-IASB joint project has resulted in changes both in U.S. GAAP and IFRS to the extent that they are now far more similar than they are different. In fact, IFRS mirror U.S. GAAP in many respects.”195 Simmons argues that, IASC/IASB “has provided the cover of multilateral legitimacy to mostly U.S. standards.”196 The situation was best described in 2007 by the IASB Chair, Sir David Tweedie. When asked about the convergence project, Sir Tweedie explained the new program between the IASB and FASB as jointly writing new standards replacing outdated ones.197 When asked about the reaction of the rest of the world, he replied: “They’re jealous, frankly, because, they see two gorillas out there and they are in danger of getting squashed between them. . . . Sorry. Not many people are following your standards. A lot of people are following U.S. GAAP and a lot of people are following IFRS.”198 3. Due Process and Accountability Becomes Critical The Foundation tried to overcome its democratic legitimacy deficiencies by reviewing its constitution periodically. Subsequently, it has (1) required a geographic quota for the appointment of Trustees and board members, (2) added a consultative mechanism called due process, and (3) included a monitoring board. Yet the success of these additions is questionable. First, although geographic quotas for IFRS Foundation Trustees have been used since 2001, it was only in 2010 when slots were given to Africa and South America did those extend outside of North American and European countries. 199 Also in 2010, the IFRS Foundation extended the 194 Members of the IFRS Interpretations Committee (formerly IFRIC), IFRS FOUNDATION, (last visited Sept. 18, 2016) . 195 Gelter & Kavame Eroglu, supra note 7, at 114. 196 Simmons, supra note 149, at 611. 197 Geoffrey Pickard, Simplifying Global Accounting, 204 J. ACCT. 36 (2007). 198 Id. at 38. 199 BOTZEM, supra note 179, at 168; see also IFRS Foundation, Trustees of the IFRS Foundation, IFRS.ORG, (last The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting geographic quota to board members as well.200 However, a closer look reveals that a membership quota by geographical origin does not bring “diversity” to the board as required by the IFRS Foundation Constitution.201 The expertise necessary to be appointed to the board includes an auditing background or an Anglo-American accounting education.202 The Big Four global accounting firms benefit as a result, as they have extensive expertise in these areas. Further, the technical expertise required for board membership favors Anglo-Americans, who often have extensive capital market expertise.203 Botzem sees the addition of a geographic quota as an “attempt at enhancing the IASB’s credibility in emerging markets while securing the supremacy of Anglo-American actors.”204 For many countries to build capacity to the proficiency level needed would take years of intensive training, except for people with experience working for the Big Four. The technical expertise needed for board membership was also supplied substantially by these firms, creating a powerful network within the IFRS Foundation.205 Additionally, the Big Four fund the IFRS Foundation generously–each contributes $2.5 million annually.206 The total contribution from the international accounting firms is Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business more than the annual contribution of the European Commission and the United States combined.207 With the widespread presence of the Big Four at every level of the Foundation, their undeniable influence suggests that “diversity” requires more than a geographic quota. Second, due process is viewed as an essential part of standard setting. Due process helps create accountability and is a valuable tool to create legitimacy for accounting standard-setting at the international level.208 IFRS rely extensively on this process for that reason. In 2006, the Foundation Trustees approved publication of the first Due Process Handbook for the IASB, which has been revised several times since.209 Like many other components of the IFRS Foundation, the use of due process was adopted from FASB of the United States.210 The Handbook establishes mandatory and voluntary steps for the IASB, and the Interpretations Committee, to comply with principles of due process (which is mainly a consultation process).211 Three principles included are (a) transparency, (b) full and fair consultation, and (c) accountability. Accountability is defined as “analys[ing] the potential effects of its proposals on affected parties and explains the rationale for why it made the decisions it reached in developing or changing a Standard”.212 However, the meaning of due process and accountability in this context are puzzling. For instance, accountability includes analyzing and explaining the rationale for board decisions. But, this alone would not normally meet an UPDATED.pdf. 207 Id. If individual contributions from each of the European countries were added to the number (i.e., France £792,016, Germany £802,401), the EU would be by far the largest contributor yet this is another striking point considering the U.S. dominance and EU’s’ constant complaints of this fact. Even the funding through EU is multi-channeled which is a hurdle when there is a desire to dominate the institution as the EU. 208 See Alan J. Richardson & Burckard Eiberlin, Legitimating Transnational Standard Setting: The Case of the International Accounting Standards Board, 98 J. BUS. ETHICS 217 (2011). 209 The most resent revision to the Handbook was approved by the Trustees on January 2013. IFRS FOUNDATION, DUE PROCESS HANDBOOK (2013), Process_Handbook_Resupply_28_Feb_2013_WEBSITE.pdf. 210 Interestingly, the once so much praised “due process” is now criticized by the ones who encouraged the implementation of it at the global level. Former SEC Chair Cox, for instance, criticizes the IFRS “due process” in his 2014 Speech arguing their “due process” is not beneficial for “American stakeholders” as it is “global” and therefore, U.S. stakeholders are heard less. See Christopher Cox, President, Bingham Consulting LLC, How America’s Participation in International Financial Reporting Standards Was Lost (June 5, 2014),; see generally infra Part IV. 211 IFRS FOUNDATION, supra note 209, § 1.7. (a) (“The formal due process procedures for the IASB and its Interpretations Committee specify the minimum steps they must take to ensure that their activities have benefited from a thorough and effective consultation process”). 212 Id. § 3.1. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting accountability requirement—especially if there are no further steps (unless it is viewed solely as a transparency mechanism, which is distinct from accountability under the three principles identified above). The idea of due process is also problematic. Botzem finds that IASB’s due process is often “misunderstood as a participatory process.”213 Due process relies on consultation and it is basically a tool to inform interested parties and get their comments on IASB’s proposed standards.214 Yet, informing and receiving comments does not mean the commentators are fully participating in the standard setting process. The IFRS Foundation Constitution states that the IASB has “complete responsibility for all IASB technical matters including the preparation and issuing of IFRS” and “full discretion in developing and pursuing its technical agenda.”215 In other words, the due process does not remove any authority from the Board’s “full discretion” and “complete responsibility.” Instead, it creates a reciprocal channel of communication–the Board informs the public about the drafts and the commentators inform the board about their view. This parallels the notice-and-comment procedure for administrative rulemaking in the United States. Although sending comment letters is not an effective means to influence the draft standards, it is hard to identify a more feasible alternative, and asking stakeholders for input before a standard is drafted may be inefficient if not wasteful. The consultation process starts only after a standard has been developed, and the Board and the staff debate the issues before drafting a standard.216 Research, discussion, drafting and revising is conducted by the “highly skilled and capable technical staff.”217 Since it is unlikely that comment letters would influence the standard setting process after this point (unless they raise issues or perspectives not previously considered), the IRFS seems as though it is a portal disseminating drafts and preparing users for upcoming changes, and in this way “legitimizing the standard setting”. 218 Therefore, the due process in this context is not a tool to provide for public participation in the standard setting process. That said, standard setting is a political process. 219 As Botzem argues, lobbying starts long before due process and 213 BOTZEM, supra note 179, at 120. 214 IFRS FOUNDATION, supra note 209, § 3.43, 3.44, 3.45. 215 IFRS FOUNDATION, supra note 201, § 37. 216 BOTZEM, supra note 179, at 120. 217 Id. at 121. 218 Id. at 120–23 (According to Botzem, IFRSF laid out the due process in order to legitimize the private standard setting). 219 Id. at 120–21. Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business most probably takes place where technical expertise is the most valuable asset.220 Third, a 2008 revision to the IFRS Foundation Constitution established the Monitoring Board to improve accountability “by providing a formal link between the Trustees and public authorities.”221 Yet whether the Monitoring Board improved accountability is open to debate. Until the creation of the Monitoring Board, the IASB was criticized due to lack of accountability. A Monitoring Board was created in 2009, with an aim to link the standard setters to public authorities and overcome the accountability deficit while protecting its “independent” structure.222 With the creation of the Monitoring Board, the IASB claims to have public accountability. However, its powers are limited. Members of the IASB are accountable to the Trustees who appoint them and can terminate the appointment.223 Trustees are selected in coordination with the Monitoring Board, but removal of a Trustee is determined through a vote of the Trustees themselves.224 The Monitoring Board does not have power to terminate the appointment of an IASB member or a Trustee.225 Further, the Monitoring Board “shall reach decisions to approve the appointment of Trustees and establish any common positions by consensus.”226 The effectiveness of the Monitoring Board thus depends upon the “consensus” they need to reach.227 According to the IFRS Foundation Constitution, accountability of the Trustees is ensured by “their” commitment to act in the public interest, “their” commitment to engage with the Monitoring Board, “their” review of the entire structure of the IFRS Foundation, and “their” undertaking a review every five years.228 These provisions suggest that the Trustees are 220 Id. at 121. 221 IFRS Foundation, Monitoring Board, IFRS.ORG, (last visited Dec. 19, 2016) . 222 The intention to create such a board was declared in 2007 in a combined statement of several capital market regulators including the SEC. See Press Release, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Authorities Responsible for Capital Market Regulation Work to Enhance the Governance of the IASC Foundation (Nov. 7, 2007), 223 IFRS FOUNDATION, supra note 201, § 16. Termination can only be on the on grounds of poor performance, misbehavior, incapacity or other failure to comply with contractual requirements. 224 Id. §§ 9, 14. Termination can only be on grounds of poor performance, misbehavior or incapacity and a 75 per cent majority of all Trustees shall be required. 225 MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING TO STRENGTHEN THE INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK OF THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL REPORTING STANDARDS FOUNDATION (2014), 226 IFRS FOUNDATION, supra note 201, § 23. 227 Id.; for a criticism of the consensus requirement see, for instance, BOTZEM, supra note 179, at 109 (sees the Monitoring Board more like a paper tiger). 228 IFRS FOUNDATION, supra note 201, § 17. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting accountable only to themselves. Personal accountability may well be an ethical and psychosocial standard but it does not add much to the democratic accountability deficit of the Foundation. The Foundation says they “provide public accountability through the transparency of their work, the consultation with the full range of interested parties in the standard-setting process, and their formal accountability links to the public”229 However, neither consultation via due process nor the formal accountability link through the Monitoring Board appear to enhance accountability to the Foundation as desired. In addition, Foundation’s commitment to transparency and reviving its constitution every five years strengthens the Foundation’s standing and shows how “legitimacy is not a stable condition but ‘must be repeatedly created, recreated, and conquered.’”230 C. Global Players and Pressure Towards Harmonization A close examination of global players reveals how and why the world switched to IFRS. Corporations with a desire to go global, stock exchanges seeking to attract companies, and capital market investors played an important role alongside international organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank, and forums such as the G8 and the G20. While U.S. involvement was instrumental to the rise of IFRS, pushing the world to adopt an accounting standard similar to U.S. GAAP was not without self-interest. In many countries, pressure to adopt IFRS originated with major companies that wanted to be listed abroad and stock exchanges that tried to attract them. By the 1990s, companies in developed economies such as Germany pressured their governments to adopt or allow U.S. GAAP or IAS. With the Asian financial crisis, the IMF and the World Bank added IFRS to their political goals. Their efforts helped IFRS reach many small nations. However, among these included nations without a stock exchange or a publicly traded firm, who adopted IFRS to receive loans from the IMF. More recently, G8 and G20 governments provided support. After the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 urged IASB and FASB to conclude the convergence 229 IFRS Foundation, Governance and Oversight, IFRS.ORG, (last visited Dec. 19, 2016) ; IFRS Foundation, Glossary, IFRS.ORG, (last visited Dec. 19, 2016) . 230 Sebastian Botzem & Leonhard Dobusch, Standardization Cycles: A Process Perspective on the Formation and Diffusion of Transnational Standards, 33 ORG. STUD. 737, 742 (2012) (quoting KRISTINA TAMM HALLSTRÖM & MAGNUS BOSTRÖM, TRANSNATIONAL MULTI-STAKEHOLDER STANDARDIZATION: ORGANIZING FRAGILE NON-STATE AUTHORITY 160 (2010)). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business projects.231 1. The Rise of Multinationals and Emerging Desire for Global Standards Using international or American accounting standards and support for harmonization among multinationals is correlated to the increase in crossborder transactions. For instance, in the 1970s, cross-border transactions in bonds and equities (also called “portfolio investments”) as a percentage of GDP were as low as 4% and 5% in the United States and Germany respectively; however, this number constantly increased since then.232 It rose to 35% in 1985, to 135% in 1995, to over 200% by the 2000s in the United States.233 As German companies increasingly invested abroad, portfolio investments as a percentage of GDP rose to 33% by 1985, 172% by 1995, and 483% in 2000s.234 The percentages were higher in Italy, where portfolio investments were 1% of GDP in 1975, but reached 253% by 1995 and 1126% by the 2000s.235 Unprecedented growth in cross-border capital transactions signaled a move to harmonize accounting standards, yet continental European governments did not adopt international standards in financial reporting until the Daimler-Benz case. With the cross-listing of Daimler-Benz on the NYSE, Continental European governments began to witness companies switch from bank financing to capital market (stock exchange) financing; national accounting laws no longer met the demands of a major firm that sought alternative sources of capital.236 For such firms, to switch to stock exchange financing was reasonable as financing from European banks became more limited. At the same time, privatization emerged and increased demand for 231 See LEADERS OF THE GROUP OF 20, DECLARATION OF THE SUMMIT ON FINANCIAL MARKETS AND THE WORLD ECONOMY (2008 ),; LEADERS OF THE GROUP OF 20, LEADERS’ STATEMENT: THE PITTSBURGH SUMMIT (2009), statement_250909.pdf. 232 BANK OF INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENTS, 69TH ANNUAL REPORT 118 (1999); see also CAMFFERMAN & ZEFF, supra note 146, at 194; SHIRIN RATHORE, INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTING 6 (2008); SASKIA SASSEN, THE GLOBAL CITY: NEW YORK, LONDON, TOKYO 118–19 (2001). 233 BANK OF INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENTS, supra note 232, at 118. 234 Id. 235 Id. 236 See Perry & Nölke, supra note 53, at 579. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting capital–starting with the UK and spreading throughout the world.237 From 1991 to 1996, assets totaling U.S. $370 billion switched hands from governments to private investors.238 The collapse of former socialist countries also heightened competition for capital.239 German banks, for instance, were preoccupied with lending to companies from the former East Germany following reunification in 1990.240 The interest rates charged by European banks became higher than the cost of stock exchange financing in the United States.241 For major firms not financed via banks, the only alternatives were to raise capital in their national capital markets, or list their shares on another stock exchange. When Deutsche Telekom listed shares (in Germany), over two million Germans bought the securities; when it listed shares on the NYSE in 1996, it was the largest IPO in history.242 Here, U.S. stock exchanges were the most attractive but presented impediments for foreign issuers that would potentially confuse investors, such as switching or reconciling to U.S. GAAP (which is also expensive). The Daimler-Benz cross-listing demonstrated that firms interested in raising capital by way of cross-listing were eager to do so in the United States; moreover, the ones that could reconcile to U.S. GAAP would do so. Firms who did not want to deal with U.S. GAAP did not enter the U.S. capital market in spite of meeting the listing requirements otherwise. For the EU this meant that if a harmonized set of standards was not provided in the EU, U.S. GAAP would likely become the global accounting standard.243 In most cases, large firms first prepared financial statements of their subsidiaries in compliance with the national laws where the subsidiaries were located, then creating entity-level and consolidated accounts under their respective national laws, in addition to preparing additional financial or reconciliation statements for the jurisdiction where they cross-listed.244 Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business But the surfeit of financial statements caused confusion. When DaimlerBenz listed on the NYSE, it had to reconcile financial statements prepared pursuant to the German commercial code to U.S. GAAP. However, the 1993 financial statements of Daimler-Benz showed a profit of U.S. $354 million under German commercial code, but a loss of U.S. $1 billion under the U.S. GAAP.245 Such a tremendous disparity contradicted the general belief that profits would be lower in Continental European countries (mainly due to the principal of conservative accounting) than in the United States or the UK.246 Such incidents suggested that without elimination of such discrepancies, investors would not know which statements to rely to inform their decisions. At a time when people easily invested across borders and when companies listed on multiple stock exchanges, both companies and investors desired a common “passport” of global standards to ease comparison of financial statements. Harmonization of accounting standards sought to ease comparability of financial reports and accelerate international access to capital markets and investment opportunities. As companies sought global access to capital markets, the discussion of accounting disparities forced policy makers to consider the harmonization and international comparability of financial reports. In turn, IFRS enabled public multinationals to use the same financial statements no matter whether they listed in London, New York or Hong Kong. Stock exchanges with a desire to attract multinationals also persistently tried to convince their governments to ease listing requirements for foreign firms. The NYSE, for instance, pressured the SEC to ease accounting requirements for foreign multinationals to list without reconciling to U.S. GAAP.247 “[T]here was an absolute rise in the German and Japanese market, and the London Stock Exchange was outpacing Nasdaq and New York.”248 Competition among stock exchanges was so fierce that SEC reports started 245 James D. Cox, Regulatory Duopoly in U.S. Securities Markets, 99 COLUM. L. REV. 1200, 1203 (1999). 246 Many researchers had found that profits figures would be consistently lower in France, Germany, Netherlands, and Sweden compared to the United States or the UK as companies in those continental European countries are more “conservative” or “pessimistic” especially in their inventory and depreciation practices. See, e.g., NOBES & PARKER, supra note 107, at 43–44. 247 See generally Richard C. Breeden, Foreign Companies and U.S. Securities Markets in a Time of Economic Transformation, 17 FORDHAM INT’L L.J. S77 (1994) (explaining that the SEC was facing pressure coming from the U.S. capital markets in addition to the foreign – mostly German – companies and their governments and justifying the SEC’s response to such pressure); see also Martinez-Diaz, supra note 1, at 3 (explaining how U.S. stock exchanges saw the existence of multiple accounting standards around the world as a negative externality and lobbied their government toward harmonization). 248 CAMFFERMAN & ZEFF, supra note 146, at 604 n.113 (citing their interview with then SEC Chief Accountant Edmund Coulson on September 12, 2003) . The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting with a comparison between U.S. and international capital markets. A 1992 SEC report, for instance, included a comparison of the London Stock Exchange in its second paragraph and emphasized that U.S. capital markets were the largest and, while others markets were growing, they were not even close.249 Indeed, U.S. capital markets (and the NYSE primarily) were experiencing “extraordinary growth” in trading volume and “becoming increasingly global.”250 In 1991, the trading volume of non-U.S. securities in U.S. capital markets was U.S. $267 billion, and quadrupled to U.S. $1 trillion by 1996.251 Moreover, there were said to be over 2,500 foreign companies that could list on NYSE.252 Richard Grasso, the then-Chair & CEO of the NYSE, estimated that if only the top third of these eligible firms were added, it would double the market value of NYSE.253 If the state-owned entities soon to be privatized were added, the numbers would get even higher.254 To increase market volume, the NYSE hired lobbyists to pressure Washington and the SEC.255 The Exchange got what it wanted in 1996 when the National Securities Markets Improvement Act mandated the SEC to allow foreign firms listed in the U.S. markets to use international accounting standards.256 The SEC was not interested in country-specific treatments. It had not given a “free pass,” even to Canadian firms listed in the United States, despite that Canada had the largest number of companies listed in the United States.257 Canadian firms at one point amounted to more than half of the total non-U.S. firms listed in the United States.258 Even today, the countries with 249 DIVISION OF INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, U.S. SEC. & EXCH. COMM’N, PROTECTING INVESTORS: A HALF CENTURY OF INVESTMENT COMPANY REGULATION, at iv (1992), investment/guidance/icreg50-92.pdf (“Today, more than 3,500 investment companies in the United States hold over $1.5 trillion in assets on behalf of over 68 million accounts. To put that in perspective, the assets of these investment companies are approximately 50% greater than the total value of all the stocks traded in London, one of the world's largest capital markets.”). 250 Grasso, supra note 242, at 390. 251 Grasso, supra note 237, at 1114. 252 Jonathan Fuerbringer, World Markets; S.E.C. Says No on German Stocks, N.Y. TIMES (Apr. 26, 1992),; see also Grasso, supra note 237, at 1114 (according to Grasso, the number of foreign companies that meet the NYSE listing requirement is 2,300). 253 Grasso, supra note 242, at 392. 254 Grasso, supra note 237, at 1114–15. 255 Martinez-Diaz, supra note 1, at 14. 256 National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-290, 110 Stat. 3416. 257 See infra Table 1. 258 SHAHROKH M. SAUDAGARAN & L. MURPHY SMITH, INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTING: A USER PERSPECTIVE 2–61 (4th ed. 2013). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business the second and third largest number of listed companies in the United States amount to less than Canada.259 The SEC attitude did not change when U.S. listings of the European countries peaked. However, the SEC was continuously considering ways to ease the process because an unprecedented number of foreign issuers were entering the U.S. markets.260 In 1993, more than a hundred foreign firms entered the U.S. capital markets, raising the total number of foreign firms listed in the United States to over 500.261 “That is an average of two or three new companies entering the United States for the first time every week.”262 By 1998, the total number of foreign firms listed in the United States had doubled, rising into the 1,100s.263 The NYSE used complaints from these firms, and prospective ones, to push the SEC.264 The SEC first issued an initiative to slightly ease the process for foreign issuers on November 3, 1993.265 But for additional costs in financial reporting, multinationals—mostly from continental Europe—were ready to cross-list in the United States. The IASC worked around the clock to make the international standards ready and available for companies to list in the United States. However, only with SEC approval would multinationals be listed in the United States using a set of standards other than U.S. GAAP. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting Overall, there was hardly any discussion in the 1990s (at the SEC level) on whether to adopt IFRS for domestic issuers and eliminate U.S. GAAP. To the contrary, until allowing foreign issuers to use IFRS, the SEC faced pressure to ease requirements for foreign issuers in order to keep U.S. capital markets competitive. Clearly, SEC involvement ensured that accounting standards for foreign issuers listing in U.S. capital markets were “equally tough.” Even those who pushed international standards, such as the Chair of NYSE, made it clear that international standards would not “abolish” U.S. GAAP.266 To the contrary, U.S. GAAP was serving well the millions of Americans investing in the capital markets. Yet, international standards were expected to “satisfy the needs of international investors” and “allow some companies the opportunity to come to the United States.”267 In 2007, the SEC eliminated the reconciliation requirement for foreign issuers and gave them the option to use financial statements prepared using IFRS. 2. Preferring an International Private Standard Setter Over UN Research on international accounting standards often draws attention to the character of the IASB as a private international standard-setter. What made the world prefer an international private organization over classical international organization such as the UN? The UN was interested in setting standards as multinationals268 became more common and many nations grew unsatisfied with the corresponding financial reporting requirements.269 The first UN Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (GEISAR) was created in 1976.270 GEISAR soon converted into an Ad Hoc Group271 and later became ISAR. Throughout the course of these 266 Grasso, supra note 237, at 1119–20. 267 Id. at 1120. 268 MNEs or Transnational Corporations (TNCs) as UN had called it then. 269 When a twenty-member group of eminent persons from diverse backgrounds across the world prepared a report on MNEs as per the inquiry of the Economic and Social Counsel of the UN, they showed that “there was a serious lack of financial and nonfinancial information necessary to effectively assess the commercial and operating affairs of TNCs.” Rahman, supra note 141, at 599 (citing U.N. Dep’t of Econ. and Soc. Affairs, The Impact of Multinational Corporations on Development and on International Relations, at 55, U.N. Doc. E/5500/Rev. 1 (1974). 270 Rahman, supra note 141, at 599–601. After GEISAR an Ad Hoc Group was created in 1979 by the resolution 1979/44. ISAR as today was formed in 1982 with the ECOSOC Resolution 1982/62 dated 27 Oct. 1982. In that Resolution, ECOSOC refers to the resolution 1979/44 setting out the terms of reference for the former Ad Hoc ISAR. See Aggestam-Pontoppidan, supra note 141; NOBES & PARKER, supra note 107, at 98. 271 Not to be confused with the OECD Ad Hoc Committee of the OECD. OECD created, with a similar Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business changes, it became an observer, or perhaps a county-by-country reporter, but never played a role in the standard-setting it was created for. Why was the UN largely unsuccessful in positioning itself to set those standards for the world? Rahman’s excellent piece points out that developed countries are not comfortable with the “sovereign equality” principle of the UN–where developing countries get to say as much as developed ones–when it comes to disclosure requirements of multinationals.272 The UN Charter gives equal voting rights to each member nation.273 When there is a one-nation-one-vote principle with decisions made by simple majority, it is logical to expect smooth decision making so long as there is a majority. In the case of GEISAR, developing countries were the majority. Developed nations held at most 20% of the votes while the developing nations held about 75%.274 Yet, decision making was not smooth.275 Multinationals were often based in developed countries, but invested in developing ones. Different priorities and conflicting interests created tension between them. Developed nations preferred comparable financial reports of multinationals to better serve capital markets—harmonization was the motto. Developing nations viewed corruption and the impact of multinationals on economic development and political stabilization as a priority. The debate on disclosure requirements of the multinationals became heated when a U.S. Senate Subcommittee published a report confirming the involvement of a major U.S. multinational in destabilizing Chile during the 1973 coup (where Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected president Salvador Allende).276 Upon the publication of this report, a “comprehensive investigation” of all activities of multinationals across national borders was demanded.277 Developing nations pressed to have more information about the subsidiaries and affiliates of multinationals. As a result, GEISAR and others recommended having “[s]eparate financial statements for the parent company and for each individual subsidiary company to be published at each name and task, an Ad Hoc Committee right after the UN got interested in setting accounting standards for the MNEs. 272 Rahman, supra note 141, at 594, 603. 273 U.N. Charter art. 2. For UN, there is another step as there is a Security Council equipped with veto power. 274 Rahman, supra note 141, at 595, 604 fig.2. The remaining 5 per cent of the votes belonged to the socialist nations. 275 See generally, id. at 603–18. 276 Id. at 594–95, 618 n.3. 277 Id. at 595. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting subsidiary level, and not at the group headquarters level.”278 The list of disclosure recommendations (the Report) were unanimously adopted and would have been implemented after ratification, but it failed to get approval despite the absolute majority of supporters. Instead, GEISAR turned into an Ad Hoc Group tasked with “reviewing” the Report and “formulating priorities” rather than setting standards.279 This effectively silenced the developing nations’ attempts to have the UN set standards on accounting and disclosure matters. After dissolution of the Ad Hoc Group, the developing nations pressed for another group, but it was also tasked only with issuing annual reports intended to review developments.280 As this example shows, having a “majority” can be meaningless in a “democratically constituted organization” such as the UN. In spite of a general rule of decision-making by simple majority, in this case the minority group sought unanimity to support implementation of the Report.281 Without support from developed nations, developing nations could not force multinationals to comply with the requirements of the Report. The minority group had additional leverage in that those nations could cut financial support to the UN, which would endanger the initiative.282 The relatively powerless majority had little choice but to adopt the unanimity requirement for decision-making. 283 The unanimity requirement gave the power of the majority to the minority–without the minority’s consent, the majority was unable to make a decision.284 A decision on disclosure requirements for multinationals could not be made at the UN level thereafter, which gave the standard setting seat to the IASC/IASB. IV. UNITED STATES HESITANCE CONCERNING IFRS After the SEC allowed foreign issuers to report using IFRS, discussions started on whether they should allow the same option to U.S. issuers. In 2008, the SEC published a Roadmap proposing the use of IFRS by U.S. issuers 278 Id. at 600 (including a list of the group’s unanimous recommendation as the minimum items of disclosure for TNCs); see also U.N. Secretary-General, International Standards of Accounting and Reporting for Transnational Corporations, U.N. Doc. E/C.10/33 (1977). 279 See Rahman, supra note 141, at 600–01; see also Economic and Social Council Res. 1979/44 (May 11, 1979) (for the terms of reference of the Ad Hoc Group. 280 Rahman, supra note 141, at 608. 281 Id. at 615. 282 Id. 283 Id. 284 Id. Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business beginning in 2014.285 With this proposal, the SEC officially said that U.S. issuers might use IFRS as early as 2014. At the time, SEC Chair Christopher Cox openly and passionately supported international standards. For Cox, pursuing this goal was important to fulfil the SEC’s mission of protecting investors and facilitating capital formation at a time when two-thirds of U.S. investors owned securities issued by foreign companies.286 With the global financial crisis, the adoption of IFRS found its place in the G20’s agenda. The G20 supported collaboration between the IASB and FASB, urged them to conclude the convergence project by 2011 and to have a single set of global standards in place.287 According to the Roadmap, whether the United States would adopt IFRS would be decided by 2011. The boards of the IASB and the FASB worked on convergence to eliminate disparities. In 2011, the SEC postponed the decision to 2012 (and later, yet again) to allow the two boards to work further. By 2014, U.S. issuers were still not allowed to use IFRS and there was no SEC decision in sight. The convergence project came to an end when the two boards declared to have different approaches in lease accounting.288 The current situation is likely as far as IFRS can go in the United States. The SEC has primarily been interested in international standards that foreign companies could use instead of U.S. GAAP, and declared the possibility of dropping the reconciliation requirement if international standards met U.S. expectations. The possibility for U.S. issuers to adopt IFRS was discussed only after the 2008 SEC Report when Christopher Cox was the Chair of the SEC.289 By asking for comments on this proposal, the SEC was trying to evaluate whether there was such a demand.290 Until the 2008 Report, there 285 Roadmap for the Potential Use of Financial Statements Prepared in Accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards by U.S. Issuers, Securities Act Release No. 8982, Exchange Act Release No. 58,960, 73 Fed. Reg. 70,816 (Nov. 21, 2008). 286 Press Release, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, SEC Proposes Roadmap Toward Global Accounting Standards to Help Investors Compare Financial Information More Easily (Aug. 27, 2008), 287 LEADERS OF THE GROUP OF 20, DECLARATION OF THE SUMMIT ON FINANCIAL MARKETS AND THE WORLD ECONOMY (2008 ),; LEADERS OF THE GROUP OF 20, LEADERS’ STATEMENT: THE PITTSBURGH SUMMIT (2009), leaders_statement_250909.pdf. 288 David M. Katz, The Split Over Convergence: FASB and the IASB back away from the goal of a single global accounting language, CFO.COM (Oct. 17, 2014),; Russell G. Golden, From The Chairman's Desk, FASB.ORG, 166231321 (last visited Dec. 19, 2016) . 289 U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, supra note 286. 290 Id. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting was little evidence of an SEC intention to adopt IFRS for U.S. issuers. However, Christopher Cox later indicated that IFRS would not be an option for U.S. issuers.291 At an event in June 2014, the former SEC Chair indicated that “the SEC had not made any policy decision on whether to allow IFRS to be used in the U.S. Nor had it developed any plan on how this would occur if such a decision were to be made.”292 Cox said, “everyone realized the bride and groom would never wed.”293 The possibility of a “wedding” that was spelled out in his term in the Roadmap was null. The world’s leading economy is, in Cox words, “without sufficient incentive or reward . . . to abandon what it’s got.”294 One can observe similar shifts among other SEC staff–though not as blunt. SEC Chairs often chose to state commitment yet did little beyond such statements. The SEC Chair White, for instance, said in 2014 that “considering whether to further incorporate IFRS into the U.S. financial reporting system has also been a priority . . . . And, it continues to be.”295 Before her, Chair Schapiro said, they are “looking closely at the question of incorporating IFRS into the financial reporting system for U.S. domestic companies.”296 But both hesitated to make a decision–neither allowing IFRS for U.S. issuers nor putting it off the table. This hesitance is discernable at other levels of the SEC. For instance, James Schnurr, the Chief Accountant of the SEC, stated that he would make a recommendation to the SEC Chair within a couple of months (of starting his duty at the SEC) and end the uncertainty investors are faced on this matter.297 Initially he proposed that the SEC give U.S. companies the option to report to the SEC using IFRS.298 However, Schnurr backed away from the 291 See infra Part IV. 292 Cox, supra note 245, at 9–10. 293 Id. at 10. 294 Id. at 13. 295 Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Remarks at the Financial Accounting Trustees Dinner (May 20, 2014), 296 Mary L. Schapiro, Chairman, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Remarks Before the Financial Accounting Foundation’s 2011 Annual Board of Trustees Dinner (May 24, 2011), 297 James Schnurr, Chief Accountant, Office of the Chief Accountant, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Remarks Before the 2014 AICPA National Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments (Dec. 8, 2014), (“[A]ny continued uncertainty around IFRS results in uneasiness for investors across the globe. Therefore, it is a priority of mine to bring a recommendation to the Commission in the near future with the hope of resolving, or at least lessening, this uncertainty.”). 298 Michael Cohn, SEC Considers Supplemental Use of IFRS by US Companies, ACCT. TODAY (Dec. Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business proposal within a couple of months because of lack of support for IFRS in the United States, stating that “for the foreseeable future, continued collaboration is the only realistic path.”299 “Continued collaboration” or “international collaboration” is often mentioned by other SEC members such as Commissioner Kara Stein, yet, the vagueness of the expression only creates uncertainty in spite of its positive character.300 Despite claiming that a recommendation on IFRS remains a “priority,” the SEC continues to hesitate–neither taking it off the table nor deciding to allow usage. V. CONCLUSION In this article, I demonstrate how the IASB turned into the sole standard setter of global accounting standards, and show how influential the United States was in this process. In spite of pushing these standards internationally, the United States does not allow U.S. listed companies to report using IFRS. The United States neither openly rejected nor accepted adoption of IFRS, and it looks like there will be no decision in the near future. Whether the United States should adopt or allow IFRS for U.S. issuers has been debated, but decision-makers in the United States nonetheless failed to reach an agreedupon next step. Rather than focusing on whether the United States should or would adopt IFRS, I show that the push to adopt IFRS, initiated and promoted by the United States, led the world to adopt Anglo-American accounting standards at a time when such a global initiative was crucial for multinationals. Although U.S. capital markets appear to have benefited most from the initiative, the United States did not lead it so that U.S. issuers would eventually adopt IFRS. Widespread adoption of a set of standards similar to U.S. GAAP allowed the United States got what it wanted out of IFRS. A 8, 2014),; SEC May Propose a New Approach to IFRS in the United States, IASPLUS.COM (Dec. 4, 2014), 299 James Schnurr, Chief Accountant, Office of the Chief Accountant, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Remarks Before the 2015 Baruch College Financial Reporting Conference (May 7, 2015),; Michael Cohn, SEC Chief Accountant Backs Away from IFRS Proposal, ACCT. TODAY (May 7, 2015),; James Schnurr, Chief Accountant, Office of the Chief Accountant, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Remarks at the 34th Annual SEC and Financial Reporting Institute Conference (June 5, 2015), 300 See, e.g., Kara M. Stein, Commissioner, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, International Cooperation in a New Data-Driven World (Mar. 26, 2015), The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting rejection of IFRS by the SEC might endanger what has been achieved so far and yet an adoption is not necessary. Hence the hesitance.301 301 U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, International Registered and Reporting Companies, I. Introduction ................................................................................... 459 II. The patchwork of national accounting standards ......................... 462 A. The Road Towards Mandatory Disclosure Regulation ..... 462 Worldwide Adoption of IFRS......................................... 467 1 . Differences Among National Economies ................... 469 2 . Different Accounting Systems in Different Economies................................................................. 478 3. The Myth of Harmonization ....................................... 484 III. Financial reporting standards for the world ................................ 486 Setting ............................................................................. 486 Standard Setter................................................................ 488 1 . IOSCO Endorsement .................................................. 491 2 . IASB Cooperates with FASB ..................................... 494 3 . Due Process and Accountability Becomes Critical .... 496 C. Global Players and Pressure Towards Harmonization ...... 501 1. The Rise of Multinationals and Emerging Desire for Global Standards....................................................... 502 2. Preferring an International Private Standard Setter Over UN............................................................................. 507 IV. United States hesitance concerning IFRS ................................... 510 V. Conclusion ................................................................................... 512 1 Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, Strategic Experts and Improvising Regulators: Explaining the IASC's Rise to Global Influence , 1973 - 2001 , 7(3) BUS . & POL., Dec . 2005 , at 1 (this is article 3 within the issue , but the articles are not consecutively paginated , so each article starts again at 1) . 2 Neal F. Newman , The U.S. Move to International Accounting Standards - A Matter of Cultural Discord - How do we Reconcile? , 39 U. MEM. L. REV . 835 , 841 ( 2009 ). 3 Martinez-Diaz, supra note 1, at 1. 4 Id. 5 Throughout the paper, IFRS could mean a set of standards, a specific standard, or multiple standards . confusing to the reader because which one is referred to will be obvious from the sentence. 6 See the IFRS Foundation's website for which countries adopted IFRS for publicly traded firms . IFRS Jurisdiction-profiles.aspx (last updated Aug . 30 , 2016 ); Sir David Tweedie, Chairman, International Accounting Standards Board , Prepared Remarks at Empire Club of Canada at the Toronto Conference 7 (Apr. 25 , 2008 ), Vision: A Realistic Appraisal of a Quixotic Quest, 87 N.C. L. REV . 1 ( 2008 ). 7 Martin Gelter & Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu , Whose Trojan Horse? The Dynamics of Resistance against IFRS , 36 U. PA. J. INT'L L . 89 ( 2014 ). 8 Id. 9 Id. 10 Commission Regulation 1606 / 2002 , 2002 O.J. (L 243) 1 (EC) [hereinafter IAS Regulation] Member States of the European Economic Area (EEA), which consists of the 27 EU Member States plus Iceland , Liechtenstein, and Norway). 11 See, e.g., William W. Bratton, Heedless Globalism: The SEC's Roadmap to Accounting Convergence , 79 U. CIN. L. REV . 471 ( 2010 ); William W. Bratton & Lawrence A. Cunningham , Treatment Differences and Political Realities in the GAAP-IFRS Debate, 95 VA . L. REV. 989 ( 2009 ). 12 See, e.g., Newman, supra note 2 . 18 Richard W. Leftwich, Ross L. Watts & Jerold L. Zimmerman , Voluntary Corporate Disclosure: The Case of Interim Reporting, 19 J. ACCT. RES . 50 , 51 , 57 ( 1981 ). 19 Id. at 51 . 20 Ross L. Watts, Corporate Financial Statements, A Product of the Market and Political Processes, 4 AUSTL. J. MGMT. 1 , 4 - 8 ( 1977 ) ; HARRY I. WOLK , JAMES L. DODD & JOHN J. ROZYCKI , ACCOUNTING THEORY: CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN A POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT 90- 91 (7th ed. 2008 ) ; see also Leftwich , Watts & Zimmerman, supra note 18, at 56-59 . 21 This is called signaling theory . See ROSS L. WATTS & JEROLD L. ZIMMERMANN , POSITIVE ACCOUNTING THEORY 156 , 163 - 66 , 168 ( 1985 ) ; see also WOLK ET AL. supra note 20, at 91 . 22 Christian Leuz & Peter Wysocki , Economic Consequences of Financial Reporting and Disclosure Working Paper No. 1 , 2008 ), at 6; WOLK ET AL. supra note 20 , at 91; Leftwich, Watts & Zimmerman, supra note 18, at 58. 23 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 29. 24 Id. at 12 . 25 Id. at 12-13; see also John Coffee, Jr., Market Failure and the Economic Case for a Mandatory Disclosure System , 70 VA. L. REV. 717 ( 1984 ). 26 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 10-11. 27 Id. 28 Id. at 13 . 29 Gelter & Kavame Eroglu, supra note 7, at 117. 30 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22 at 13-14; see also J. Gregory Sidak , The Failure of Good Intentions: The Worldcom Fraud and the Collapse of American Telecommunications After Deregulation, 20 YALE J . ON REG . 207 ( 2003 ). 31 See generally JOHN C. COFFEE , JR., GATEKEEPERS: THE PROFESSIONS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE ( 2006 ) (investigating how WorldCom and Enron occurred and analyzing gatekeepers' role in those incidents); see also Sidak supra note 30 (arguing WorldCom's fraud had real negative effects on Enron Board and the New Information Order of Sarbanes-Oxley , 35 CONN. L. REV. 1125 , 1127 , 1138 & note 29 ( 2003 ) (“as demonstrated by widespread market reaction to the problems at Enron, a disclosure Initial Reflections , 69 U. CHI. L. REV . 1233 ( 2002 ); William W. Bratton, Enron, Sarbanes-Oxley and Accounting: Rules Versus Principles Versus Rents , 48 VILL. L. REV. 1023 ( 2003 ), William W. Bratton, Enron and the Dark Side of Shareholder Value , 76 TUL. L. REV. 1275 ( 2002 ). 32 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 14 . 33 Id. at 4-10; see also Robert E. Verrecchia, Information Quality and Discretionary Disclosure , 12 J. ACCT. & ECON . 365 ( 1990 ). 34 WOLK ET AL. supra note 20, at 93 . 35 See, e.g., id. at 94 ( defining this as a “waste of resources for everyone to be buying the same private information about the firms .”); see also Leftwich, Watts & Zimmerman, supra note 18, at 59-60. 36 Coffee, supra note 25, at 747. 37 Id. 38 Id . 39 Rene M. Stulz , Securities Laws, Disclosure, and National Capital Markets in the Age of Financial Globalization , 47 J. ACCT . RES. 347 , 377 - 83 ( 2009 ) (showing that mandatory disclosure and enforcement note 22, at 18-22; Christian Leuz, Different Approaches to Corporate Reporting Regulation: How Jurisdictions Differ and Why, 40 ACCT. & BUS. RES . 229 , 231 ( 2010 ) ; REINIER KRAAKMAN ET AL., THE ANATOMY OF CORPORATE LAW 279 (2d ed. 2009 ); WOLK ET AL. supra note 20, at 94-98 . 40 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 14- 17 . 41 WOLK ET AL., supra note 20 , at 94 , 99 (“the focus of accounting regulation is not on mandatory reporting per se; it is on improving the quality of reported information . ”) . 42 WATTS & ZIMMERMANN, supra note 21, at 164-65 , 167; Coffee, supra note 25, at 722 , 725 - 26 . 43 Coffee, supra note 25, at 725- 26 . This is called non-excludability which brings up the free-riding be categorized as public good in which uses do not directly pay for it . See Sarbanes Oxley Act , 15 U.S.C. § 7219 ( 2010 ) ; see also OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ACCOUNTANT, WORK PLAN FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF SYSTEM FOR U.S . ISSUERS: FINAL STAFF REPORT (July 13 , 2012 ) [hereinafter SEC FINAL STAFF PAPER , July 13 , 2012 .]; Cunningham, supra note 6, at 27. 44 Coffee, supra note 25, at 725 ( giving public goods examples such as public parks and public television); WOLK ET AL., supra note 20 , at 96 (giving the example of highways and National Public Radio) . 45 Coffee, supra note 25 , at 722 , 726; WOLK ET AL., supra note 20 , at 96 . 46 Coffee, supra note 25, at 722 , 726 . 47 Andrei Shleifer , Understanding Regulation, 11 EUR. FIN. MGMT . 439 , 442 ( 2005 ). 48 Leuz & Wysocki, supra note 22, at 21- 22 . 55 Id. 56 See e.g., Gelter & Kavame Eroglu, supra note 7 , at 96, 153 - 56 . 57 IFRS Foundation , About the IFRS for SMEs, IFRS .ORG, SMEs/Pages/IFRS-for-SMEs.aspx (last visited Dec . 19 , 2016 ). Among the most recent adopters of IFRS required to use the IFRS for SMEs starting January 1, 2015. For Kosovo, see IFRS Foundation, IFRS for SMEs Update, IFRS.ORG (Apr . 2015 ), 20SMEs % 20 UpdateApril%202015v2.pdf. For Uruguay, see IFRS Foundation, IFRS for SMEs Update , IFRS.ORG (Jan. 2015 ), SMEs-Update-January-2015.pdf. 58 Katharina Pistor, Rethinking the "Law and Finance" Paradigm , 2009 BYU L. REV . 1647 , 1651 . 59 See e.g., Craig Doidge, G. Andrew Karolyi , & René M. Stulz , The U.S. Listing Gap (Fisher C. Bus ., Working Paper No. 2015 - 03 -07, 2016 ), ( on listing gap); see also Craig Doidge , G. Andrew Karolyi , & René M. Stulz , Why Do Foreign Firms Leave U.S. Equity Markets ? 65 J. FIN. 1507 , 1507 - 08 , 1512 ( 2010 ) (on foreign company delistings ). 60 LLS et al. refers to Andrei Shleifer, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes and their co- authors in different papers such as Robert Vishny, and Simeon Djankov . 61 See Rafael La Porta , Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer , Law and Finance , 106 J. POL. ECON. 1113 ( 1998 ); Simeon Djankov, Edward Glaeser, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer , The New Comparative Economics , 31 J. COMP. ECON. 595 ( 2003 ) ; Rafael La Porta et al ., The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins, 46 J. ECON. LITERATURE 285 ( 2008 ). 62 La Porta et al. ( 2008 ), supra note 61, at 325 ( “the data collection project has made substantial strides Contest , French Reactions to Doing Business and Economic-Analysis of Law, 57 AM . J. COMP. L. 811 , 69 Pistor, supra note 58, at 1652-54 ; see Mathias M. Siems , Legal Origins: Reconciling Law & Finance and Comparative Law , 52 MCGILL L.J. 55 ( 2007 ). 70 Siems, supra note 69, at 65 . 71 Id. 72 See e.g., John Armour & Priya Lele , Law, Finance, and Politics: The Case of India, 43 L. & SOC. REV. 491 , 491 ( 2008 ) (“[P]olitical economy explanations have more traction in explaining the case of India than do theories based on 'legal origins . '”) . 73 See Coffee, supra note 67; Siems, supra note 69; Mark J. Roe , Legal Origins, Politics, and Modern Stock Markets , 120 HARV. L. REV. 460 ( 2006 ) (arguing that ownership structures and the depth of stock legal origins.) . 74 See generally Coffee, supra note 67; Roe, supra note 73 . 75 VARIETIES OF CAPITALISM: THE INSTITUTIONAL FOUNDATIONS OF COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE (Peter A. Hall & David Soskice eds., 2001 ); see also Chris Howell, Varieties of Capitalism - And Then There Was One ?, 36 COMP. POL. 103 , 107 ( 2003 ) (book review) (“Countries have different sets of one cluster of countries, the liberal market economies for example, as consistently outperforming another . 188 MACKENZIE ET AL., supra note 147, at 9 . 189 Bratton, supra note 11, at 476 (“ IASB is a carbon copy of the FASB except with a larger cast of characters and geographic distribution requirements .”); see also Leuz, supra note 87 , at 250 (“[E]ven if GAAP are close enough so that standards are not the issue . ”) . 190 ROBERTS ET AL., supra note 181 , at 387 . 191 The Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting , IFRS FOUNDATION ( 2012 ), 20Summaries % 20 2013/Conceptual%20Framework.pdf (“The IASB Framework was approved by the IASC Board in April 1989 for publication in July 1989, and adopted by the IASB in April 2001 . In September 2010 , as part of 1989 remains effective . ”) . 192 Gelter & Kavame Eroglu, supra note 7 , at 114 ( “First, IASB consists of fifteen independent experts, with the IFRS.”) . 193 Monitoring Board, IFRS FOUNDATION, Board. aspx (last visited Sept . 18 , 2016 ). 237 Richard A. Grasso, Globalization of Equity Markets, 20 FORDHAM INT'L L. J . 1108 , 1110 ( 1996 ). 238 Id. at 1110 . 239 See, e.g., Roberta S. Karmel , Living with U.S. Regulations: Complying with the Rules and Avoiding Litigation , 17 FORDHAM INT'L L.J. S152 , S154 ( 1994 ). 240 Zeff, supra note 127, at 817- 18 . Many of those differences could not be eliminated to date . See, e.g. , Kate Connolly , German Reunification 25 Years On: How Different are East and West Really , THE GUARDIAN (Oct. 2 , 2015 ), years-on-how-different-are-east-and-west-really . 241 Karmel, supra note 239, at S154- 55 . 242 Richard A. Grasso, Globalization of Capital Markets, 21 FORDHAM INT'L L. J . 390 , 392 ( 1997 ). 243 See, e.g., Perry & Nölke, supra note 53 , at 579 ( citing Ian P. Dewing & Peter O. Russell , Before and After Enron , 42 (2) J. COMMON MKT. STUD . 289 , 293 - 94 ( 2004 )). 244 Berger, supra note 127, at 16- 17 . 259 See infra Table 1. What is striking is the change in the top three nations with the highest number of listed companies in the United States during this period . Up until 2006 , Canada, the UK , and Israel were the top three respectively . By 2007 , the UK and Israel switched due to the increasing delistings of Bayer. In 2007, the Cayman Islands had more listed firms than the UK in the United States . Today, firms the United States , 37 FORDHAM INT'L L.J . 1265 ( 2014 ). 260 See, e.g., J. Carter Beese , Jr., Commissioner , U.S. Sec . & Exch. Comm'n , The New Capital Order: American Competitiveness and Global Capital Flows (Apr. 19 , 1993 ), 1993 /041993beese.pdf; J. Carter Beese , Jr., Commissioner , U.S. Sec . & Exch. Comm'n , Keeping America's Markets Competitive (May 25 , 1993 ), 052593beese.pdf; J. Carter Beese , Jr., Commissioner , U.S. Sec . & Exch. Comm'n , Market 2000 and the Future of U.S. Capital Markets (Oct. 24 , 1993 ), 261 See, e.g., Karmel, supra note 239, at S152 . 262 See, e.g., Breeden, supra note 247 , at S82- 83 . 263 International Registered and Reporting Companies, SEC .GOV, corpfin/internatl/companies.shtml (last modified June 24 , 2016 ). 264 See, e.g., M. Shane Warbrick , Practical Company Experience in Entering U.S. Markets: Significant Issues and Hurdles from the Issuer's Perspective, 17 FORDHAM INT'L L.J. S112 ( 1994 ). 265 Richard Kosnik, The Role of the SEC in Evaluating Foreign Issuers Coming to U .S. Markets, 17 FORDHAM INT'L L.J. S97 , S103 - 10 ( 1994 ); Karmel, supra note 239, at S153.

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Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu. The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting: How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World, Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business, 2017,