The opponents of FRS17 have lost the battle. Along the way supporters included the Society of Investment Professionals, & UBS Warburg, as well as my FT letter from February 2002. The March 2003 Actuary also had "FRS17: an equity analyst's perspective".

The Enron scandal was a godsend for advocates of FRS17; in February 2002 the FT's Lex wrote, "After weeks in which accountants and accounting standards have been in the spotlight for not revealing enough, along comes an accounting standard that is catching flak for revealing too much."

Boots had been a big supporter of the ASB on pensions, see "Response to ASB Discussion Paper on Pensions" (October 1998) and was the first FTSE100 company to produce FRS17 numbers, at March 2001.

Many people thought Boots' move to bonds was prompted by FRS17 and I tried to set the record straight in an FT letter in January 2002.

Since I was a consultant to the ASB on pensions (see my early discussion with the ASB in October 1998 and interview on the "Today Programme" in November 2000) I could be accused of bias in favour of FRS17. I don't think it is perfect - Jon Exley highlights some of its shortcomings in the Actuary. However, I still pinch myself that the ASB got as far as it did.

UBS produced a series of FRS17 papers, including November 2001 "UK pensions following FRS 17".

The pension baton has been passed from the ASB to the IASB whose Chairman is, of course, Sir David Tweedie who steered FRS17 through the ASB. He has a rare combination of intellect, moral passion and political skills.

Although the US has not had FRS 17 to fuel its pensions debate, the inadequacies of US pension accounting have received much coverage, particularly the "expected return on assets" component in the P & L. With increased co-operation between the FASB & IASB the September 2002 FT headline was "US prepare for revolution in accounting standards".

Read the superb Martin Wolf FT Leader, advocating transparent pensions accounting.

Also read Zvi Bodie, Robert Merton and Robert Kaplan's March 2003 article in Harvard Business Review on a related topic "For the Last Time: Stock options are an Expense" (I was a consultant to the IASB on accounting for options).

The IASB is moving forward on pensions with plans for something more radical than FRS 17 see the latest from March 2003. Also earlier comments "IASB to curb inflated pension forecasting" and "Sting in the tail" (both FT). John Plender in February 2002 comments on "The mighty bean-counter.".

Don't say you haven't been warned.

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