The Ideological Homogenization of the FASB
When the Financial Accounting Standards Board's (FASB) conceptual framework (CF) was initially developed, contemporaneous observers believed the CF incorporated conflicting elements and that it only slightly favored the asset-and-liability (A&L) view of accounting. Now, however, the FASB has made it clear that the CF endorses the A&L view. It is likely that a number of factors, operating together, have contributed to the movement to the A&L view. I contribute to the literature by exploring a novel explanation in path dependence. Specifically, I consider whether the completion of the primary stage of the CF in 1985 stimulated U.S. accounting standard-setting institutions along a path dependent process, driven by reinforcement around early interpretations of the framework.
I develop and test hypotheses based on this theory. I empirically demonstrate that, relative to members selected in the pre-CF period, members selected in the post-CF period take voting positions that are (i) less like their constituent sponsoring organizations and (ii) more like one another; and that these shifts are related to standards favoring the A&L view. Using an analysis of comment letters I find that, relative to a control group, FASB members selected in the post-CF period express a stronger ex ante preference for A&L standards. This pattern of evidence makes it appear "as if," in the post-CF period, the Financial Accounting Foundation systematically selects FASB members whose views are in-line with the A&L view. Finally, I demonstrate a significant reduction in voting dissent among post-CF members but an increase in members dissenting because standards do not go far enough to advance the A&L view. This suggests that the FASB has become ideologically homogeneous with respect to the A&L view of accounting. I conclude by exploring the setting and discussing some consequences of these changes for standard-setting.
The empirical results presented in this study are consistent with path dependence. However, since the data are also consistent with alternative explanations that I cannot reject, further work will be necessary to confirm whether path dependence has had a meaningful impact on U.S. standard-setting institutions in the post-CF period.
Chakravarthy, Jivas Sreenathan, "The Idealogical Homogenization of the FASB" (PhD diss., Emory University, 2014), pp. 1-103.