If Merrill Lynch didn't know the value of the assets on their books and had to take an $8 billion-plus write-down for subprime mortgage-related securities, how can directors and officers insurance underwriters possibly know if financial disclosures are appropriate?

Jack Zwingli, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Audit Integrity, a forensic accounting firm, asked the question during the Professional Liability Underwriting Society International conference last month, noting that issues facing D&O insurers thanks to the subprime mortgage crisis are just a small part of a larger challenge–the need to get their arms around the degree of transparency and the quality of disclosure at financial institutions.

"Subprime is the topic du jour and will last a long time in terms of lawsuits and continuing impact. But from a disclosure standpoint, this is really an issue of fair-value accounting," Mr. Zwingli said, referring to accounting rule changes related to the valuation of assets that went into effect on Nov. 15.

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