A Mark to Market Rule for Lawsuits?

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has proposed a new standard for public disclosure of pending lawsuits. This raises interesting legal technology and management questions for general counsels.

Reporting Rights in the January 2009 issue of InsideCounsel reports on FASB Statements No. 5 and 141[R]. These now-delayed rules would lower

“the threshold for reporting the potential loss from a lawsuit from the current ‘probable’ to anything short of ‘remote.’ …. Currently, because many loss contingencies are reasonably possible rather than probable, companies usually deal with significant litigation by describing it and stating that an estimate of loss cannot be made. That’s a far cry from the detailed liturgy FASB’s original proposal mandated, a liturgy that critics say will not only fail to work as intended, but will prejudice companies in a variety of ways.”

It strikes me that you could view the proposed FASB standard as the moral equivalent of financial mark to market rules. Failure to mark financial assets to market contributed to the current economic crisis. If corporations now have to report more financial assets at market (rather than book) values, why not also the moral equivalent for lawsuits? I wish the article had analyzed whether the mark to market debate will affect the FASB rule-making.

For more see prismlegal.com.

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E-Discovery Trends in 2009 — New developments in e-discovery will affect enterprise general counsel and compliance officers, law firms serving corporate clients, and IT departments

By Christine Taylor, January 9, 2008, 12:10 PM

A few years ago, the Taneja Group coined the term “Information Classification and Management” (ICM) to describe the technology of locating and classifying data throughout the enterprise. ICM covered sub-technology sectors such as e-discovery, compliance, data security control, and data management. However, we saw the term “e-discovery” trump the more comprehensive name as rabid attention turned from ICM to the specifics of civil litigation software tools. We are now seeing the e-discovery term itself take on a fuller usage, more akin to ICM. People do use the term when talking about civil litigation, but are also expanding it to encompass compliance, corporate governance, data classification, and even knowledge management.

In this broad sense we have looked at the trends of the e-discovery market as they impact its largest stakeholders: the enterprise general counsel and compliance officers, law firms serving corporate clients, and IT.

The crux of the matter is that e-discovery and its related areas will be extremely hot for litigation and compliance, especially those related to the financial meltdown. The market increasingly understands the necessity of e-discovery software tools and systems, and will move toward proactive e-discovery adoption. A more reactive approach will remain alive and well as many companies will still avoid implementation until driven to it by a lawsuit or federal investigation. But companies will increasingly understand that the e-discovery solution phenomenon is much more than a litigation aid. It also has major effects on federal compliance and internal governance, and potentially on data management throughout the enterprise.

For more see byteandswitch.com.

Obama Administration Could Mean More Compliance Regs

January 5, 2009
By Drew Robb

Just as accounting scandals earlier this decade led to new regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, last year’s global financial meltdown coupled with Democratic control of the White House and Congress seems like a recipe for a host of new compliance regulations — and thus more business for storage vendors and more work for storage administrators.

But the changes won’t stop with an Obama presidency and the 111th Congress. The leaders of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging countries (G-20) have been meeting to consider global regulations aimed at raising bank capital standards and regulating hedge funds, with European leaders at the forefront of the new financial market regulation.  While it might be years before all this results in any kind of international consensus, another round of regulation is almost certainly at hand.

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SOX and other regulations like FRCP stimulated interest in the archive and nearline disk market and exposed tape media’s shortcomings for meeting search and audit requests.

“Generally, additional regulation mandates that organizations have to demonstrate their ability to reproduce transactional records within a specified timeframe when requested,” said Brian Kelly, an executive at Ernst and Young Global Ltd. “After the failure of some major organizations to respond to such audit requests, an overhaul of the archival process was mandatory.”

For more see enterprisestorageforum.com.

FASB Delays Lawsuit Disclosures — The board responds to companies’ distaste for its proposed rule on contingent liabilities

Sarah Johnson – CFO.com

The Financial Accounting Standards Board has changed the deadline for when companies would have been required to provide new disclosures about their contingent liabilities under a controversial proposal.

Companies with a calendar fiscal year-end had been expected to comply with the rule in mid-December. At a board meeting today, FASB pushed off that date by another year after hearing that many companies could not implement a new policy for disclosing potential lawsuit liabilities in time. Plus, the board is still sifting through the wealth of feedback from lawyers, auditors, and financial statement preparers who worry the newly shared information would reveal confidential data and turn into an undeserved boon to the plaintiffs’ bar.

In the meantime, FASB will collect even more feedback by asking companies to do sample runs of its proposal along with an alternative method that has yet to be introduced. The rule overhauls FAS 5, Accounting for Contingencies — requiring companies to disclose “specific quantitative and qualitative information” about potential lawsuit liabilities — and changes the contingent losses that companies disclose under FAS 141(R), regarding mergers and acquisitions.

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