Jennifer Hughes writes an interesting piece in the Financial Times (London) which reminds us of one of the basic concepts of the accounting world – “true and fair view”. The recent investigation into Lehman Brothers revealed how $49billion had been “moved off” the balance sheet in 2008, a move which was supported by the now defunct banks’s directors. And we don’t have to look as far away as the US – what about Anglo Irish Bank moving (was it) €6billion in to and out of its deposits at year end to make things look nice. And, as Hughes says, this kind of thing has happened before – she cites the case of London & County Securities back in 1973, who were up to the same sort of shenannigans as Anglo Irish.
Can we stop this kind of tom-foolery in accounting? Maybe not completely, but as Hughes says, a global set of accounting standards might help. Let’s wait and see.