Bridge over ocean
1 May 1982 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 38, Issue 3

FASB Statement No. 5: Throwing out the Baby (Disclosure) with the Bathwater (Accrual)

  1. Jerry L. Jorgensen
  2. Ronald M. Mano

Recent catastrophes such as the DC-10 crash in Chicago, the MGM Grand Hotel fire, the exploding Ford Pinto gas tank cases and the Three-Mile Island incident vividly illustrate the need for competent risk and insurance management procedures. The accounting profession has long recognized that some companies carry insurance while others do not.

Prior to 1975, companies that did not carry insurance were allowed to record an accrual for self-insurance. Many argued that, since casualties do not accrue, to make such accruals was not proper accounting. In apparent response to that pressure, the FASB in 1975 enacted a rule (Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 5, Accounting for Contingencies) that prohibits any accruals for noninsurance or self-insurance.

In prohibiting accrual for self-insurance, the FASB also stated that disclosure of noninsurance or underinsurance is generally unnecessary. In encouraging the complete nondisclosure of the very fact that a company may be uninsured, the FASB seems to have overreacted. Nondisclosure constitutes inadequate disclosure of an often material fact that can affect the firm’s internal control and going-concern status. It may also constitute a shortcoming in reporting on the stewardship function and constitute less than full and adequate disclosure.

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