Most people probably never heard of him but Dominic D'Alessandro succesfully runs Manulife Financial, a Canadian insurance giant. He says that mark-to-market accounting is hurting insurers:
The same accounting rules that bank executives blame for exacerbating the financial crisis are going to make insurance more expensive for Canadians, says the chief executive officer of North America's biggest insurer.
The rules exaggerate the tendency toward greed and short-term thinking in the financial system, Mr. D'Alessandro said.
“One of the benefits that we've had here in Canada is we've been able to run our business constantly with the view as to what is the best economic decision, not what is the best accounting decision,” Mr. D'Alessandro said. “And we've been able to hold assets and invest our policy holders' money in a blend of assets which over the long term has delivered substantial value to them. Well, under the new accounting rules that have been foisted upon us, I'm not sure that's going to be possible going forward,” he said.
“The consequences are that, ultimately, consumers will pay a lot more for insurance, they'll be getting less value. Because if insurance companies, which have 30- and 40-year liabilities can't, because of the accounting model, invest in equities, or invest in long-term assets, or assets whose value goes up and down … It's just nuts,” Mr. D'Alessandro said.
I'm not a fan of fair-value accounting so I'm not going to re-hash my past arguments. All I'll say is that these financial firms benefitted from markt-to-market accounting on the way up, and that made it worse (possibly let them take on more debt and made them look better than they really were.) Tags: fair-value accounting