ESMA Chairman Steven Maijoor Urges US to Decide on IFRS Adoption Soon
In a keynote speech delivered to the 35th Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association in Ljubljana on 9 May, Steven Maijoor, chairman of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) urged his counterparts at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to send a clear message about the adoption of IFRS in the US soon.
Mr Maijoor began his speech describing his understanding of ESMA's role and the key objectives he sees for ESMA in the context of the broader regulatory reform of financial markets across the main regions of the world. He touched upon the proposals for reforming audit in the EU, the combination of audit and consulting, and the strengthening supervision. He also pointed out ESMA's own standard setting activities and its interaction with the IASB.
Moving then on to the topic of financial reporting, Mr Maijoor spoke about two issues in-depth: International Public Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and IFRS as global accounting standards.
He countered the possible surprise at a financial market regulator addressing the issue of public sector accounting by pointing out the fact that due to the current crisis governments have become important and active capital markets participants and the difference between corporate debt and sovereign debt has become more and more obsolete. Mr Maijoor strongly supported a current consultation of stakeholders on the suitability of introducing IPSAS for EU Member States: "There is currently a wide gap in the transparency obligations for sovereign debt issuers compared with corporate debt issuers. [...] We all know that a high level of transparency is needed for effective market discipline and good governance, and good governance is now especially needed in the Euro-zone."
On the topic of global accounting standards, he expressed respect regarding the on-going debates in the US on the implications of IFRS adoption and listed the goals that have already been achieved. However, he also pointed out that the G20 are getting impatient and are increasing the pressure on the IASB and FASB to achieve a single set of high quality, global accounting standards while the US still seemed to hesitate to come to a conclusion. "However, the absence of a clear US SEC position, and even more regrettably, the lack of clarity on the timetable for their decision have not been to the advantage of the IASB." Mr Maijoor concluded his speech on a hopeful note: "I know that my American counterparts at the SEC believe in international co-operation, and I hope they will send a positive message to the market soon by having the courage to adopt IFRS."