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The role of a crisis in reshaping the role of accounting

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Prior to 2001, international accounting standards (IAS) were insufficiently attractive to gain the support of US regulators. The potential role of IAS in the US gained prominence during a period of extreme financial reporting instability in 2001–2002. Emerging opinion increasingly upheld principles-based rather than rules-based accounting standards in the face of the financial reporting crisis. But to promote any active shift in the US position, an institutionally legitimate infrastructure for the international accounting standards setter had to be created. As this was taking shape, the globalisation of business activities grew with inter-organizational linkages and cross-national financial inter-dependencies and flows becoming increasingly complex. Given the extensively uncertain, uneven and constantly evolving nature of global business changes, the aptness of applying judgment in assessing financial performance and position rather than relying on the application of pre-defined rules continued to achieve wider acceptance. The argument is made in the paper that international financial reporting standards are today seen to fulfil a global risk mitigating role founded on a logic that had to first gain political and institutional legitimacy and that also had to be viewed as being responsive to perceived market imperatives.

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