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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.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 21st, 2011 at 01:46:52 PM EST
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