Rule-Makers, Companies and Advocates Assess Global Accounting Standards

Representatives from the extractive industries and civil society groups meet with members of the IASB.

Today in New York, representatives from the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) met at the Revenue Watch Institute's New York office for a dialogue with members of the investment, civil society and corporate communities about rule changes that would add vital industry information to standard reporting requirements for petroleum and mining companies.

For several years, Revenue Watch, the Publish What You Pay coalition and other civil society partners have been in conversation with the IASB--the world's leading rule-setter for accounting--regarding new transparency measures the Board should consider during its current review process. First and foremost among these recommended changes is the requirement that companies report key financial information on a country-by-country basis, rather than the current practice of aggregating information by region or business activity.

Revenue Watch Director Karin Lissakers, who co-hosted the Thursday meeting, said, "The reporting standards that Revenue Watch and our partners recommend is a convergence of investors' need for country-level data on company operations and citizens' demand for information about the financial transactions that underlie oil and mining activity, including details on reserves, volume and costs of production and benefit streams to governments."

Tom Jones, former Vice Chairman of the IASB and advisor to the current process, said Thursday's meeting represented a step forward in the sometimes contentious dialogue between companies, advocates and regulators. "The mood around the table was quite cooperative," he said. "I don't think a lot of people object to the idea of transparency, to the need for information to evaluate the various costs of operation, but thrashing out the compromises that satisfy all parties and displease the fewest people can really only be done together at a table. It's a lot easier to see another group's point of view than when you're hurling abuse at each other in the press."

The IASB's process of rules updates includes several phases of exploration and discussion. The Board released a formal Discussion Paper for new accounting guidelines on April 6, 2010, and today's dialogue in New York was one of two multistakeholder meetings in which the recommendations of Revenue Watch and its allies will be assessed in advance of internal IASB meetings later this year.

"We expect the comments and opinions from this summer's discussions will inform the IASB as it begins to design a new reporting standard for extractive companies," said Lissakers. "The Board will undertake critical decisions on these standards in 2011, and Revenue Watch, Publish What You Pay and all our coalition partners will continue to press our case with the task force and the Board while we also pursue other channels for bringing about the necessary changes in disclosure."