29-05-2008

Accounting at European financial institutions: as you like it

We recently asked to a famed European banker how European banks account for assets on their books that appaear to have no market or at least suffer from scarce liquidity. He answered that the problem was ill-posed as many of these items remain on the banks book till maturity ; trying to get a market value would otherwise return an unfair representation of their worthyness. These assets are than usually booked at cost or through the use of quantitative models, the accuracy of which is than certified by third parties institutions.
In the case of this very smart banker and its institution this could very well be the case but if one takes a global perspective, this lack of consistency in valuation models is a reason for concern.
While the problem is by now well recognized at Us financial institutions, the same might not hold true for their European counterparts.

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