As adoption of international financial reporting standards moves to the fast track, finance executives appear conflicted, a recent U.S./European survey indicated. The majority of 749 international corporate finance professionals interviewed by Duke and Oxford universities favor a shift from generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP) to international financial reporting standards (IFRS). And yet 60 percent say the complexity and cost of switching standards may outweigh the benefits and 40 percent question whether truly global standards are achievable, given the different legal environments and business cultures across countries.

"There's a lot at stake," says Tim Buthe, an assistant professor at Duke. "Good standards can improve the efficient allocation of scarce financial resources, but, conversely, poor standards or standards that lend themselves to inconsistent implementation can seriously undermine public confidence in financial markets and thereby exacerbate financial crises and economic hardship." Buthe and Oxford professor Walter Mattli talked to experts from the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

On Nov. 14, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued its much anticipated proposed IFRS roadmap, defining milestones that could result in mandatory IFRS filing in fiscal years ending on or after Dec. 15, 2014, if not sooner. First, as a trial though, 110 companies or more could switch to the international rules as early as next year, selected by their size and their industry. The SEC predicts that these companies would each incur about $32 million in additional costs in the 10-Ks they file in 2010. The SEC seeks comments on its roadmap for mandatory adoption within 90 days after its publication in the Federal Register–or mid- to late-February.

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