Move over, GAAP. Here comes GARP.
In yet another indication of the newfound prominence of risk management, the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand has introduced a set of Generally Accepted Risk Principles for banks, securities firms, and other companies with lots of money to manage.
The principles, known as GARP, for short, set standards for risk measurement, risk management, and internal controls. They are intended to prevent financial meltdowns of the sort that have hit Barings Bank, Daiwa Bank, and Orange County, Calif., in recent years.
"Obviously, there's been significant public embarrassment for many over (the) past couple (of) years, which has indicated the need for a somewhat more comprehensive internal control framework," said Joel Tancer, chairman of Coopers & Lybrand's U.S. securities and commodities practice and one of the authors of the risk principles.
The principles also are an outgrowth of a 1992 report on internal controls by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission, a group of accounting firms, internal auditors, financial executives, and academics.
And Coopers & Lybrand is clearly trying to position GARP as an industry standard - hence the somewhat presumptuous name, which is modeled on generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, not on John Irving's novel The World According to Garp.
"We're hoping that it's broadly applied as a risk management framework for the industry," Mr. Tancer said.
Coopers & Lybrand is not the only big accounting firm that has developed or is developing risk management standards for its bank and securities clients. Arthur Anderson & Co., for example, has its Business Risk Model. And Grant Thornton has InFocus, short for Information and Control Understanding System.
But nobody else has come up with an acronym as catchy as GARP. What's more, Mr. Tancer said, "I certainly believe ours is more comprehensive than anything else I've seen out there as relates to investment activities."
Meanwhile, the U.S. bank regulatory agencies are working on new examination techniques that focus on risk management and the adequacy of internal controls.
"These issues are all of a piece," said Robert Miailovich, associate director of supervision at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "Financial statements aren't worth much if you don't say something about the controls behind them."