The IAS 39 "Carve-Out": How the European Union hedged its exposure to the international standard on derivatives and hedging
International Accounting Standard (IAS) 39, Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement has attracted considerable controversy throughout its development. Major European financial institutions and political agencies have lobbied heavily against the development of certain provisions within the standard. Jacques Chirac, the President of France, has even suggested that the accounting treatment proscribed in IAS 39 threatens the stability of the European economic structure. Despite its efforts to accommodate constituents’ concerns, the International Accounting Standards Board refused to fully concede to lobby pressure, and implemented a compromise standard in March 2004. As a result, the European Union’s Accounting Regulatory Committee (ARC) voted to recommend that the European Commission only partially adopt IAS 39, effectively “carving-out” two provisions that were the focal point of debate. This case explores the history of IAS 39, describes the IAS 39 proscribed accounting treatment for fair value and cash flow hedges, outlines heavily debated issues surrounding macro hedge accounting, and illustrates the impact of politics in the accounting standard setting process. The case also explores the implications of the European Commission’s “carve-out” on the viability of the International Accounting Standards Board and the Board’s overriding goal of global harmonization of financial reporting standards.