Proposed changes to insurance-contract accounting standards are running into delays amid vocal opposition, but whatever final conclusions ultimately emerge, they are unlikely to have a broad impact on credit ratings since new rules, by themselves, do not alter the economic position of an entity, according to Moody’s.
The joint-accounting project between the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) drew support from Moody’s earlier in the year. The rating agency said at the time that it believes “investors are well served by efforts to develop a single set of high-quality accounting standards for insurance contracts.”
However, Moody’s notes that the IASB plan has now been delayed. Moody’s says the IASB’s original intention was to issue a final standard in June, but the timeline was extended by “several months” in May. In a recent conference call, according to Moody’s, the IASB said it now expects to conclude deliberations by the end of 2011. “IASB members have said that the earliest implementation date for any final standards would be 2015,” Moody’s says in its Weekly Credit Outlook, “though this could be pushed back even further.”
The FASB, meanwhile, plans to issue its exposure draft by the end of this year.
“The project is highly controversial,” says Moody’s, “and the decision to delay was likely influenced by vocal opposition from investors and the industry, as well as by the difficulty in reconciling the two boards’ views.”
But, Moody’s says, “regardless of the boards’ final conclusions or the timing of the project,” the transition is unlikely to have a broad impact on credit ratings.
“However, credit ratings would be negatively affected if accounting changes affect insurance companies’ behavior or business models by making certain lines of business more or less attractive, or if the new accounting model is deemed so unhelpful to investors that it reduces the industry’s access to capital markets.”