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When the SEC ruled in December 2004 that Fannie Mae had misapplied derivatives accounting rules, known as FAS 133, it resulted in fresh criticism of an accounting standard that has been a lightning rod for controversy since its introduction in 2001. Whether or not Fannie Mae had deliberately misinterpreted the rules, critics claimed that there had to be something wrong with a standard so complex that auditors couldn’t be relied upon to spot the problem.

Since then, FAS 133 hasn’t changed, but the way auditors approach it has, says Jiro Okochi, the New York-based CEO with treasury and risk software firm Reval.com Inc.: “Auditors are sticking strictly to the letter of the law. We’ve heard from lots of [executives who] are being told that they can no longer do things the way they used to.”

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