SEC to Issue Report on Accounting Lapses

The Securities and Exchange Commission (search) plans to release this month a long-awaited report on off-balance-sheet accounting of the sort that featured in the Enron Corp. (search) collapse and other recent corporate scandals, said a top SEC official on Tuesday.

"The month of May is when we will actually release that report" on special purpose entities, off-balance-sheet liabilities and related matters, said SEC Chief Accountant Donald Nicolaisen.

"We're also raising questions about some very old accounting matters" including leasing and pension accounting, Nicolaisen said in remarks to a group of actuaries at a conference.

The SEC's top accountant also stressed his support for a new rule requiring that corporations expense stock options.

The new rule forces companies to account for options as a normal business expense on the income statement like salaries or bonuses.

"Stock option accounting was a long and raucous debate. It's over," Nicolaisen said, adding that he is "absolutely supportive" of the new rule adopted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

FASB writes America's Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. It adopted the expensing rule recently in the face of intense opposition from some corporate interests, particularly high-tech and telecommunications companies that issued stock options liberally to executives.

Last month the SEC extended the deadline for complying with the new options expensing requirement to the fiscal year after June 15, 2005, for large companies and Dec. 15, 2005, for small companies.

Companies were originally required to be in compliance by the next fiscal quarter after June 15 and Dec. 15, based on their size.