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Huffington Calls Suspension of Mark-to-Market Accounting 'Absolutely Tragic'

She’s been popping up in a lot of places lately to chime in on the economy.

 

This time Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington appeared on ABC’s April 5 “This Week,” where she voiced her disapproval of the March 30 decision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) relaxing mark-to-market accounting rules.

 

“This week, we saw so many concessions to the banks,” Huffington said. “We saw the suspension of mark-to-market, which is absolutely tragic. Japan, by not having mark-to-market, made it much harder for them to recover.”

 

But as Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein of First Trust Portfolios recently wrote for Forbes magazine, mark-to-market accounting reinstitution was reinstated only in recent years. The last time it was in effect – during the Great Depression – it caused many bank failures.

 

“The history seems clear. Mark-to-market accounting existed in the Great Depression, and according to Milton Friedman, who wrote about it just 30 years after the fact, it was responsible for the failure of many banks,” Wesbury and Stein wrote. “Franklin Roosevelt suspended it in 1938, and between then and 2007 there were no panics or depressions. But when FASB 157, a statement from the Federal Accounting Standards Board, went into effect in 2007, reintroducing mark-to-market accounting, look what happened.”

 

The FASB decision will allow banks use internal models instead of market prices and allow them to take into account the cash flow of securities. As  Robert Willens, a former managing director at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., who now runs his own tax and accounting advisory firm in New York, explained to Bloomberg, the change could boost bank industry earnings by 20 percent.

 

Nonetheless, Huffington called the new method in place “mark-to-fantasy” and deemed the decision to relax the rules nothing more than pandering by the Obama administration. But FASB isn’t under direct control of the federal government. It’s an independent entity that the Security and Exchange Commission “officially recognizes” to set standards of financial accounting and reporting.

 

“So basically, it’s now become mark-to-fantasy,” she said. “They can put down any number they want and they’re basically perpetuating all these gimmicks that have gotten us where we are and the government is going along with that because basically Tim Geithner, Larry Summers understand that world. This is their world and this is really the world to which they keep making concessions.”

 

This brought a response from “This Week” co-panelist George Will.

 

“Arianna, when you get into the business of government allocating wealth and opportunity in a society – let’s agree on that – it can’t be done prettily,” Will said.

 

Despite Will’s efforts to explain that the bank bailouts are a product of  what Huffington and like-minded liberals wanted, Huffington maintained that they an were the government propping up the “oligarchs of America.”