WASHINGTON - House Republicans threatened to delay a controversial plan to eliminate pooling-of-interests accounting for mergers, arguing that further study of the plan's effect on the economy is necessary.
At a hearing Thursday, members of the House Commerce Committee told Financial Accounting Standards Board Chairman Edmund L. Jenkins that he should slow his project until its impact can be more fully assessed.
In March, Committee Chairman Thomas J. Bliley Jr. asked both Mr. Jenkins and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt to delay FASB's plan to eliminate pooling in favor of purchase accounting. The Virginia Republican asked both to study the benefits of merger and acquisition activity to the U.S. economy and the effects of different accounting treatments on mergers and acquisitions activity.
"Congress could force a moratorium until those studies are in," said Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif. "It did that with Internet taxes, and it wouldn't be out of the range of Congress to do so."
"When you tell us that you're not aware of what the studies are, that just invites legislative action," said Rep. W.J. Tauzin, R-La.
Mr. Jenkins made no promises.
"We understand and accept the oversight of Congress," he said. "We'll take very seriously your admonitions and will consider all information before making a final decision."
However, Mr. Jenkins added: "We will continue to move ahead, because the timing of those studies are out of our control."
FASB has set yearend as a target for issuing a final rule eliminating pooling-of-interests accounting for mergers. The agency's next meeting on the topic is scheduled for May 17; slated for discussion are how to measure goodwill and what intangibles should be included in goodwill.
At Thursday's hearing, Mr. Jenkins said FASB's board will be looking very closely at goodwill in the months ahead, with a presentation from a consulting group on different methods of treating goodwill scheduled for the end of May.
Industry representatives were thrilled that Congress might intervene.
"Considering that there's not 100% agreement on which type of accounting system is correct, it's very important that we get an idea of how this will effect the economy," said Donna A. Fisher, director of tax and accounting for the American Bankers Association.
"We're pleased the committee has filled the gap to take economic consequences into account," said Kimberly J. Pinter, director of corporate finance and tax for the National Association of Manufacturers.