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The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration

No 2010:1:
The Need for a Different Approach to Financial Reporting and Standard-setting

Lars Östman ()

Abstract: International Financial Reporting Standards are questioned. Possibly, there is a need for a different kind of standards and a different procedure for developing them. No doubt, there is a need for a more profound theoretical approach to these issues. Theory-building in accounting should include approaches whereby problem descriptions have a broad coverage and cross the boarders of traditional specialisations. In this paper, a theoretical approach is outlined. According to this approach, insights into control problems for every organisation and system can be gained by analysing relationships between global value chains and a hierarchy of one or several organisations. Time is crucial. Instrumentality is regarded as an inevitable and necessary guide line for any control system that relates resources to functions and visions. Instrumentality concerns the effects of tools on certain functions. In the paper financial reporting and standard-setting are placed in a wide context in which longitudinal relationships are essential for individuals, organisations and control systems. Basic financial accounting concepts and their relationships with business events are discussed. The importance of uncertainty for financial reporting is emphasized, and so is the fact, that control from top-levels is exercised at a distance. A tendency to instrumentalism is also recognized: measures and procedures, for example standard setting procedures, tend to be important in themselves, irrespective of ultimate economic functions in a wider perspective. The analysis in the paper is one application of a general approach to financial control for all types of organisations. The general approach is based on a number of previous research-oriented books published over several decades and the author´s specific own experiences from internal and external processes with organisations in focus. Consistency and integrative power of the ideas have been tested in relation to certain books in various fields outside the core of the subject: applied systems theory, theatre, sociology, economic history, institutional theory and economics.

Keywords: financial reporting; International Financial Reporting Standards; standard-setting; accounting standard setting bodies; supervisory boards; corporate governance; transparency; market value accounting; mark-to-market; fair values; historical values; accounting theory.; (follow links to similar papers)

29 pages, January 19, 2010

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