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Highlights

GAO discussed its perspective on the process for establishing accounting standards for private-sector entities and then, more specifically, the current proposals for accounting for stock options. We recognize that accounting for stock options is a complex and controversial issue on which reasonable people can and do disagree. As a result, in light of the Financial Accounting Standards Board's (FASB) current proposed standard for accounting for stock options and other share-based compensation, there has been a renewed interest for the Congress to possibly legislate accounting rules for stock options. FASB is a non-governmental organization empowered to establish financial accounting and reporting standards for private-sector entities. Although this function legally resides with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for public companies as part of its mandate to administer and enforce the provisions of the federal securities laws, the SEC has traditionally relied on FASB since 1973 to fulfill this function. The U.S. capital markets depend on a system of continuously improving financial information about the underlying economic activities of companies. This information is fostered and framed by independently established financial accounting and reporting standards, collectively referred to as generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

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