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Fair value accounting and financial crises: an actor-network study
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 03:32 authored by Stephen Haswell
Using actor-network theory, this thesis charts the translation of fair value accounting (FVA) technology. Although FVA has been discredited for over-inflating profits and thereby leading to the 1929 economic collapse, academics of the 1960s resurrected it as a potential complete science of financial reporting. Regulators of the 1990s then reintroduced FVA into both US and International Financial Reporting Standards in an attempt to combat reporting malfeasance by the financial industry. This reintroduction was performed in a piecemeal manner. In the 1990s FVA was manipulated by the financial industry it was supposed to regulate. After the crash of Enron Corporation in 2001, standard setters realized that FVA had to be toughened. The result was a neo-liberal and puritan version of FVA that emphasized 'mark-to-market' accounting; but this swiftly became a supposed cause of the global financial crisis of 2008-9. After a fierce trial of strength with the financial industry, standard setters and regulators were forced into reinstating a weaker and more malleable version of FVA that liberally permitted 'mark-to-model' accounting, a model that persists to the present day. The thesis explores the forces that have enabled FVA to be translated so that it serves the financial industry and other interests simultaneously. The thesis concludes that the FVA network itself is now a single actor capable of translation.