Two months ago Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil brought up the very relevant topic of fair value divergences on bank balance sheets courtesy of SFAS 107 and lax accounting firm standards (some more lax than others). Zero Hedge immediately followed up on this theme and presented a comparative analysis of various bank asset shortfalls, speculating that certain accounting firms are doing their best to do an Arthur Andersen redux for Generation Bailout.
On October 15 we said: "Just what about the economic environment has given Citi auditors KPMG the flawed idea that the bank's loan can be easily offloaded with virtually no discount? And just how much managerial whispering has gone into this particular decision. If one assumes a comparable deterioration for the Citi loan book as for the other big 4 firms, and extrapolates the 2.8% getting worse by the average 1.5% decline, one would end up with a 4.2% Book-to-FV deterioration. On $602 billion of loan at Q2, this implies a major $25 billion haircut. Yet this much more realistic number is completely ignored courtesy of some very flexible interpretation of fair value accounting rules at KPMG. Maybe Citi and its accountants should take a hint from Regions Financial CEO Dowd Ritter who carries the FV of his $90.9 billion loan book value at a 25% discount." Today, finally, after a two month delay, these two articles seem to have finally made the inbox of the financial gurus at the Wall Street Journal, which, in an article named "Accounting for the bank's value gaps," says: "can investors count on consistency when it comes to bank accounting? As many banks struggle with piles of bad loans, it appears some auditors are being stricter than others when assessing their true value." Way to be on top of that ball WSJ/Mike Rapaport. Nonetheless, we are happy that this very critical topic, is finally starting to get the due and proper, if largely delayed and uncredited, attention it deserves.