Fighting to Survive in a World of Changing Accounting Rules

As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, financial firms just can’t catch a break from the folks at FASB. David Reilly writes in his Heard on the Street article “Assets Get Harder to Shake” that the FASB last week proposed new rules regarding assets that companies securitize and sell to other institutions. Currently, when the assets are securitized and sold off, they are removed from the books of the company that sold them. Unfortunately for the financial services firms, they often retain some interest of one form or another in the securitized assets. This retained interest, say in the form of mortgage servicing, could force the investment vehicle back onto the books if, under the new rules, the entity that sold the vehicle is deemed to have retained significant control over or liability for its assets. Mr. Reilly doesn’t cite any estimates of how much could come back on the books, but he does note that Lehman Brothers securitized more than $700 billion in assets between 2003 and 2007.