Eine weitere Sternstunde des Parlamentarismus
Heute hat das luxemburgische Parlament quasi ohne Debatte – lediglich der liberale Abgeordnete Xavier Bettel ergriff nach Berichterstatter Gilles Roth das Wort – und ohne Gegenstimmen, bei einer Enthaltung, die Gesetzesvorlage 5976 zur Implementierung der internationalen Buchhaltungsnormen angenommen. Die luxemburgische Tagespresse ignorierte dies weitestgehend, bis auf die Internetpräsenz des „Wirtschaftsmagazins“ Paperjam, in der ein Experte von PriceWaterhouseCoopers gleich von einer „Revolution“ spricht, wird hiermit doch die Notion des „fair value“ oder „mark to market accounting“ endgültig im luxemburgischen Recht verankert.
Was ist eigentlich „fair value accounting“? Lassen wir einen Ökonomen zu Wort kommen, Jesús Huerta de Soto:
„We must not forget that a central feature of the recent period of artificial expansion was a gradual corruption, on the American continent as well as in Europe, of the traditional principles of accounting as practiced globally for centuries. To be specific, acceptance of the International Accounting Standards (IAS) and their incorporation into law in different countries […] have meant the abandonment of the traditional principle of prudence and its replacement by the principle of fair value in the assessment of the value of balance sheet assets, particularly financial assets. In this abandonment of the traditional principle of prudence, a highly influential role has been played by brokerages, investment banks (which are now on their way to extinction), and in general, all parties interested in ‚inflating‘ book values in order to bring them closer to supposedly more ‚objective‘ stockmarket values, which in the past rose continually in an economic process of financial euphoria. In fact, during the years of the ’speculative bubble‘, this process was characterized by a feedback loop: rising stock-market values were immediately entered into the books, and then such accounting entries were sought as justification for further artificial increases in the prices of financial assets listed on the stock market.
In this wild race to abandon traditional accounting principles and replace them with others more ‚in line with the times‘, it became common to evaluate companies based on unorthodox suppositions and purely subjective criteria which in the new standards replace the only truly objective criterion (that of historical cost). Now, the collapse of financial markets and economic agents’ widespread loss of faith in banks and their accounting practices have revealed the serious error involved in yielding to the IAS and their abandonment of traditional accounting principles based on prudence, the error of indulging in the vices of creative, fair-value accounting.[…]
Hence, we see that the IAS act in a pro-cyclic manner by heightening volatility and erroneously biasing business management: in times of prosperity, they create a false ‚wealth effect‘ which prompts people to take disproportionate risks; when, from one day to the next, the errors committed come to light, the loss in the value of assets immediately decapitalizes companies, which are obliged to sell assets and attempt to recapitalize at the worst moment, i.e., when assets are worth the least and financial markets dry up. […]
In short, the greatest error of the accounting reform recently introduced worldwide is that it scraps centuries of accounting experience and business management when it replaces the prudence principle, as the highest ranking among all traditional accounting principles, with the ‚fair value‘ principle, which is simply the introduction of the volatile market value for an entire set of assets, particularly financial assets. This Copernican turn is extremely harmful and threatens the very foundations of the market economy for several reasons. First, to violate the traditional principle of prudence and require that accounting entries reflect market values is to provoke, depending upon the conditions of the economic cycle, an inflation of book values with surpluses which have not materialized and which, in many cases, may never materialize. The artificial “wealth effect” this can produce, especially during the boom phase of each economic cycle, leads to the allocation of paper (or merely temporary) profits, the acceptance of disproportionate risks, and in short, the commission of systematic entrepreneurial errors and the consumption of the nation’s capital, to the detriment of its healthy productive structure and its capacity for long-term growth. Second, I must emphasize that the purpose of accounting is not to reflect supposed “real” values (which in any case are subjective and which are determined and vary daily in the corresponding markets) under the pretext of attaining a (poorly understood) ‚accounting transparency‘. Instead, the purpose of accounting is to permit the prudent management of each company and to prevent capital consumption,[…] by applying strict standards of accounting conservatism (based on the prudence principle and the recording of either historical cost or market value, whichever is less), standards which ensure at all times that distributable profits come from a safe surplus which can be distributed without in any way endangering the future viability and capitalization of the company. Third, we must bear in mind that in the market there are no equilibrium prices a third party can objectively determine. Quite the opposite is true; market values arise from subjective assessments and fluctuate sharply, and hence their use in accounting eliminates much of the clarity, certainty, and information balance sheets contained in the past. Today, balance sheets have become largely unintelligible and useless to economic agents. Furthermore, the volatility inherent in market values, particularly over the economic cycle, robs accounting based on the ’new principles‘ of much of its potential as a guide for action for company managers and leads them to systematically commit major errors in management, errors which have been on the verge of provoking the severest financial crisis to ravage the world since 1929.“
(aus der Einleitung zur zweiten englischen Ausgabe von Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles, Auburn, 2009, S.XXII-XXV).
In anderen Worten: die Abgeordnetenkammer hat sich heute ohne Gegenstimme gegen alle Sonntagsreden über die aus der Krise zu ziehenden „Lehren“ ausgesprochen – ausser diese Lehren beinhalten nichts anderes als: more of the same. Frisch auf zur nächsten Krise also!