Both thrifts and banks will have to learn slightly different dance steps under the new, jointly choreographed proposed Audit and Accounting Guide that AICPA has issued for comment.

The guide merges the AICPA's recommended bank and thrift accounting practices, which means only a few regulatory variations remain to divide what used to be quite different types of financial institutions. The exposure draft came out Aug. 31; comments are due Nov. 30. Officials hope the guide will be issued in final form by September 1995.

Among the changes:

* Thrifts no longer will be urged to disclose the amount and number of shares of Federal Home Loan Bank stock that are pledged as collateral for FHLB borrowings.

* Banks would be urged to pick up the thrift practice of reporting as a liability the reserves that are held against the sale of off-balance sheet instruments. Banks usually toss that money into the general loan-loss reserve.

* Thrifts would become more like banks by getting a CPA's statement regarding disclosures of regulatory capital.

Exactly how detailed that statement should be remains undecided. Roger Orders of Coopers & Lybrand in San Francisco told attendees at the AICPA Savings Institution Conference on Sept. 7 that the guide's authors were of two minds on the subject.

He said one group believed disclosures should be comparable between all banks and savings institutions, regardless of their capital status - and particularly if the institution was heading from one status to another. In addition, the AICPA's Accounting Standards Executive Committee has shown a tendency toward detail of late with its guidance calling on life insurance companies to make detailed disclosures" could really be overbearing" if such disclosures are required for holding companies and all significant subsidiaries, he said.

The debate never was resolved. Instead, the drafting committee asked members to send in comments on whether well capitalized institutions should be permitted to provide fewer disclosures based on their capital status.

This isn't the only sign the guide is a work in progress. The section on loan impairments and derivatives both are subject to change pending statements from the Financial Accounting Standards Board. In addition, recent derivatives-related losses by trust units has prompted some soul searching. "We may be missing some risks that are common in today's trust activities," Orders said.

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