ROBERT HERZ (pictured left) has had a more interesting career than any accountant deserves. He began his tenure as chairman of America’s Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in 2002, dealing almost immediately with the fallout from the Enron and WorldCom scandals, which had been abetted by accountants. He was due to end it on October 1st, a sudden departure for undefined personal reasons, after a crisis also partly pinned on the profession.

罗伯特·赫兹(左图)的职业生涯之精彩,在会计师中无出其右者。他在2002年接任美国财务会计准则委员会(FASB)主席的终身职位时,马上就需要处理安然公司和世通公司的丑闻所带来的严重后果,这两起丑闻全是会计师唆使的。他由于未知的个人原因,突然计划在10月1日离职,这也是在一次部分归咎于会计师的金融危机之后。

Mr Herz leaves behind a project of convergence with the international standards used by most countries outside America and set down by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). That body’s head, Sir David Tweedie (pictured right), is also set to leave office, in June 2011. Despite the departures of Sir David and Mr Herz, big accounting firms and their clients still expect convergence of standards to top the agenda of their successors (a mid-2011 deadline will slip).

赫兹的离任,遗留下一个与国际标准融合的计划,该国际标准由国际会计准则理事会(IASB)制定,被美国外的大多数国家采用。而IASB的主席,大卫·特维迪爵士(右图)也将在2011年6月离职。尽管大卫爵士和赫兹即将双双离职,大型会计公司以及客户仍希望标准的融合能成为继任者的首要任务(原定2011年中期的最后期限就无所谓了)。

The most controversial issue in that process is how to report financial assets: whether at fair-market value or amortised cost. Mr Herz firmly backed fair value, arguing that doing otherwise made financial trickery easier. Opponents think that revaluing seldom-traded assets during market meltdowns makes banking crises more likely and more severe. Some of those opponents were members of Congress who hauled Mr Herz in to testify last year, leading to a partial climbdown on fair value. But in its most recent proposals fasb dug in its heels, calling for most of them to be given at fair value. IASB has taken a two-category approach, saying that loans and loan-like equivalents held to maturity may be marked at amortised cost, whereas frequently traded instruments should be marked to market.

计划中最具争议的问题是如何报告金融资产:以公允市价还是摊余成本。赫兹坚决支持公允市价,他认为用其他的方式将纵容金融欺诈。反对者认为,在市场崩溃时重新评估很少交易的资产,将更容易导致银行业危机,危机的后果也更加严重。其中一些反对者去年将赫兹拉到国会作证,导致公允市价一派的让步。但在近期的提案中,FASB再度强硬,要求大多数资产以公允市价报告。IASB采取了两分的方法,称持至到期的贷款和贷款等价物可以用摊余成本计算,而频繁交易的商品必须以市价计算。

Mr Herz’s empty seat at FASB will be filled by an insider, FASB’s technical director. His replacement as acting chair, Leslie Seidman, is already a board member. That hints at continuity. But an expansion of the board from five members to seven in 2011 could be significant. Mr Herz broke a 2-2 tie to vote for the reporting-standards proposal that leant heavily towards fair value. That proposal is now subject to public consultation, and the comments coming in are skewed towards IASB’s approach, not FASB’s. The “big four” accounting firms (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte), not to mention companies of all types with international reach, are on IASB’s side. Many think, therefore, that Mr Herz’s departure may allow for a consensus-seeker to emerge as his replacement.

赫兹离开留下的空缺将由FASB的技术总监填补。新任代理主席莱斯丽·赛德曼本身就是一名理事。这意味着政策的连贯性。但2011年理事成员由5名扩大到7名,可能会产生巨大影响。赫兹打破了委员会中投票的二比二僵局,让报告标准的提案向公允市值严重倾斜。该提案目前正在征询公众意见,但外界更加青睐IASB的方案而非FASB的。会计公司中的“四大”(普华永道,安永,毕马威和德勤)以及要在国际上打交道的其他公司,都支持IASB。因此许多人认为,赫兹的离开,将让一个与外界能达成共识的人上位。

At IASB, meanwhile, Ian Mackintosh is whispered to have the inside track to replace Sir David. Although he heads Britain’s Accounting Standards Board, he is a New Zealander (continental Europeans do not want another Brit like Sir David). An announcement is expected this year. Diplomatic skills will be at a premium in both positions. The new IASB chair will have many countries to please. The new head of FASB may have to oversee a delicate climbdown from full fair value. Tougher still, America’s new chief standards-setter must continue to nudge the world’s biggest financial market away from home-grown standards towards worldwide ones.

与此同时,在IASB,小道消息称伊恩·麦金托什被内定为大卫爵士的接班人。虽然麦金托什是英国会计准则委员会主席,但他是新西兰人(欧陆人士不想再找个大卫爵士那样的英国佬了)。接任者人选将在年内公布。两个机构的接班人都急需外交才能。新任IASB主席需要讨好很多国家。而新任FASB主席不能再全面使用公允市值,则需要在这一问题上不失面子地让步。更困难的是,美国的新任标准制定者必须将美国这个世界最大的金融市场一点点推离本土制定的标准,推向世界标准。