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The Accounting profession has some explaining to do, since they invented off-balance-sheet items.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 12:00:28 PM EST
They'll use the NRA gun deaths response.

"Off-Balance Sheet doesn't kill Banks: Management kills Banks".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 12:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While we're at it, maybe they could also explain their treatment of "contingent liabilities"

Migeru:

Jerome a Paris:
A contingent commitment is still a commitment. How on earth did these disappear?
According to US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles),
Footnotes [to financial statements] also contain disclosures relating to contingent losses. Firms are required to accrue a loss (recognize a balance sheet liability) when both of the following conditions are met:
  • It is probable that assets have been impaired or a liability has been incurred.
  • The amount of the loss can be reasonably estimated.
If the loss amount lies within a range, the most likely amount should be accrued. When no amount in the range is a better estimate, the firm may report the minimum amount in the range.
SFAS (Statement of Financial Accounting Standards) 5 defines probable events are those "more likely than not" to occur, suggesting that a probability of more than 50% requires recognition of a loss. However, in practice, firms generally report contingencies as losses only when the probability of loss is significantly higher.
Footnote disclosure of (unrecognized) loss contingencies is required when it is reasonable possible (more than remote but less than probable) that a loss has been incurred or when it is probable that a loss has occurred but the amount cannot be reasonably estimated. The standard provides an extensive discussion of loss contingencies.
In other words, a mess.
That is, if a loss is less likely than not to happen or its size cannot be estimated, then it is zero.

As some physicst said in the 1940's about renormalization... "just because something is infinite doesn't mean it's zero".

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 12:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently banks have been working on the inverse of the opposite principle.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 05:04:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I predict their explanation will consist of staring at the sky, pointing, screaming "LOOK!  A TERRADACTYL!!!!!!", and then running away.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 11:26:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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